Peru approves second anchovy season despite El Nino concerns

LIMA, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Top fishmeal producer Peru authorized a second anchovy season on Wednesday, setting the quota at a lower-than-usual 1.11 million tonnes after warmer seas linked to El Nino scattered stocks of the cold water fish.

The production ministry had twice held off on giving a green light after initial studies turned up low levels of anchovy, a protein-rich fish ground up and exported abroad for use as animal feed.

But an expedition last week found the right conditions for a second season starting Nov. 17 along Peru’s central and northern coasts, the ministry said in the state newspaper El Peruano. It said stocks would be monitored closely.

The decision was welcomed by Peru’s fishing industry, which had been hit hard by warm waters and depleted stocks that upended a second season in 2014.

A surge in fishing activity would also help the economy’s nascent recovery from last year’s sharp slowdown.

“Now we have to get fishing before they go away,” said Elena Conterno, the president of Peru’s National Society of Fisheries.

Conterno estimated that the industry would be able to haul in the total 1.11 million tonnes permitted in the second season, which can run up until the end of January.

Peru produced about 2.8 million tonnes of anchovy in the first season, more than the 2.2 million tonnes in all of 2014. Last year’s catch was about a third the size of levels in recent years and was a drag on overall economic growth.

Peru produces about 30 percent of the world’s fishmeal from its abundant stocks of anchovy, which thrive in the nearby cold, plankton-rich Humboldt current.

Peru has forecast a “strong” El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, and said it could shape up to be an “extraordinary” event in the summer, which starts in December in the Southern Hemisphere. (Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; editing by Grant McCool)