Can you tell us about the mandate of your organization and your main activities representing the sector?
The National Chamber of Fisheries is the oldest chamber in the fishing sector; there are other small chambers in other provinces as well. We take care of the whole supply chain, from small and large boats for tuna and pelagic fishing to processing plants. We represent about 55 large companies in both sectors and along two different steps of the chain—extracting and processing—as well as the commercial side. In the tuna business, the most important fisheries sector in Ecuador, we deal with a global market, and thus the industry needs to be in compliance with many conservation measures and policies regarding the ocean. We have an extremely active role in that regard. Ecuador is the second-largest tuna producer in the world. Our main concern today is taking care of the resources in order to remain sustainable so that future generations can also enjoy the product. We are focused on bringing Ecuador's fishery sector to a high certification level, which is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and we are working with a group of five companies in order to obtain MSC certification. We recently started the same process with the pelagic business. Ecuador is also a major exporter of shrimp, and one of the key points of this industry is shrimp feed. The main ingredient is the fishmeal that we produce, and we are part of the value chain and require large investments from Cargill, BioMar, or VitaPro. They want local suppliers to be in compliance with sustainable fishing, and we are putting the industry in order; the chamber has taken leadership of this process, and people are coming together because they believe in the chamber.
How has the sector grown in recent years?
In 2017, we exported USD1.5 billion in fishery products and sold a large amount of other products in the local industry. We held a discussion with the government because it wanted to raise fuel prices for the fishing sector. We demonstrated that for every USD1 it gives us in a differential price of the oil, we return USD2.04 to the economy. We provide direct jobs to more or less 50,000 people, pay around USD200 million in revenue taxes, contribute over USD36 million to the social security system, and also because of the income taxes we pay, our workers receive around USD23 million in profit sharing. We add value to our products; for example, we catch tuna, process it, and produce enhanced products. There are three ways to bring more dollars to our economy: export more, add more debt, or attract investment. To improve our competitiveness, we need to put in new technology in the production process and also have better trade agreement with the group of countries with whom we deal. If we can do all these, we can compete better and export more.
What impact will the new investment legislation have on the fishery sector?
The country has old fleets, more than 40 years in most cases, and the maintenance of vessels is becoming more expensive. Today, we need better and faster vessels with engines that consume less. Under the law, new boats from Spain, China, and so on will not have to pay VAT, which represents 12% of the price. Another thing that we are working on is finance. We have held several meetings with Corporación Financiera Nacional and are designing a line of credit for this particular purpose. We want to replace the Ecuadorian fleet, and that will protect us for another 40 years. Getting more value out of the same product is also something that we want to do here with the pelagic fishery. This requires a great deal of R&D investments, which is difficult with private funding alone.