Two years ago, an inexplicable quirk of Nature threatened to ruin the economy of Peru and the livelihood of its fishermen and their families.
Two years ago, an inexplicable quirk of Nature threatened to ruin the economy of Peru and the livelihood of its fishermen and their families. One result was that some 200,000 people were forced to live on government relief.
The cause of the disaster was a freak shift in the Humbolt Current, the cold stream which moves along the coast of South America. the shift meant that hundreds of millions of anchovies upon which the Peruvian fishing industry depended, moved out into waters too deep for the fishermen's nets.
In 1971, Peruvian fishermen landed over 12 million tons of fish - mainly anchovies - which was converted into fishmeal. At that time, Peru supplied 40 percent of the world's demand for fishmeal.
Last year, the warm stream which displaced the Humbolt Current began to peter out and the prospect of anchovy fishing grew. But even today, Peru has not been to resume fishing for these tiny fish on the same scale as before.
But Peru's fishermen are now going back to work. And the reason for their new hopes of earning a living from the sea once more, is the Peruvian government's initiative in establishing new fish processing plants in the fishing ports, with the capability of suing all kinds of fish to produce fishmeal. As a result, export markets are again being built up to satisfy a world-wide demand for fishmeal as animal feed.
Just over a year ago, Peru nationalised the entire fishing industry, including all the 100 or so processing plants, in order to save the industry - which normally earns Peru some 300 million dollars in foreign exchange - from complete collapse.
The industry now operates under the name Pescaperu. One of the places where it has found success is Paita, on the north of Peru's Pacific coast. Here, the fishermen are at work again and a new fish processing plant is working flat out to convert their catches into fishmeal exports.
Ships for Japan, Poland, Panama and the Unites States call regularly for cargoes.
Anchovy fishing is still a long way from returning to normal. Landings are still severely restricted while the fish move slowly back to their old breeding grounds. But, after the disaster of two years ago, the fishermen of Peru are once again earning a living from the sea.