Peruvian Anchovies

(73 x 51 cm, Ink and Pen on Paper)

Engraulis ringens 

Anchovy, like many other fish within the clupeiformes, generally travel in large schools that can include up to many millions of fish which often belong to the same age group so as to ensure close to equal sizes. Any deviations in sizes tend to be sorted in that smaller individuals swim towards the top of the school and larger ones towards the bottom to allow light to filter through the whole group effectively.

While technically a mechanism to avoid predation, their schooling behaviour has made the peruvian anchovy vulnerable to the world’s fisheries, earning them the title as the “most exploited fish in world history”. After supporting the world’s largest single stock fishery for decades, Engraulis ringens became infamous when the fishery crashed in 1972, due to overfishing as well as strong environmental disturbance caused by an El Nino event.

Although the stock recovered to some extent and continued to supply the world with food and more importantly fish meal for agri- and aquaculture, the initial collapse was a moment of reckoning for fisheries worldwide. The sea’s resources are not infinite after all.