Scallops: Peru’s ‘golden nuggets’ of the sea

SECHURA, Peru � Peruvian fishermen need only dive down a few meters to find the scallops considered the golden nuggets of the country's seas � and cherished in European and North American kitchens.

Sechura Bay, off northwest Peru's Pacific coast near Ecuador, is the source

of 80 percent of Peru's exports of the seafood to France, Spain, the United

States and Canada.

God blessed us with this bay, it's really good for scallop production,

fisherman Segundo Tezen told AFP aboard a small raft navigating the coast

under the baking sun.

To harvest the hermaphrodite clams, divers hanging onto a hose plunge down

three to five meters (10 to 16 feet) and gather them in nets that are then

hauled up to the surface by two fishermen.

These treasures have converted Peru into a culinary superpower.

These are golden nuggets of the Peruvian sea, Wilmer Aguero, operations

manager of the export company Cultimarine, told AFP.

Sechura Bay is known as one of the major producers of scallops in the

world, he added.

The vast bay is divided up into eight production zones, with 200 fishing

associations dedicated to harvesting the Peruvian scallop, or Argopecten

Purpuratus.

Each day, around 200 boats unload 25 metric tons (27 US tons) of scallops

at the Parachique fishing cove, one of 20 production and storage areas for

mollusks.

They are then loaded into refrigerated trucks and taken to processing

plants where they are washed, weighed, packaged and passed on to export

companies that take them to the nearby port of Paita.

The countries with the greatest demand are France, which consumes scallops

with corals, and the United States, which buys a lot of scallops (with the

roe, or coral, already removed), Isabel Viza, owner of a processing plant in

Sechura, told AFP.

It takes nine months of cultivation before the molluscs are ready to be

sold, for 20-38 soles ($6-11) per kilogram (2.2 pounds).

You have to constantly monitor the product in the sea, said Tezen.

Although now a hugely lucrative industry, it is a relatively new one in

Peru, having begun just 15 years ago.

According to official statistics, 18,000 tons of scallops were harvested

throughout the country from January to September this year.

The National Society of Industries says scallop exports earned $56.1

billion between January and November, during which time 4,557 tons of these

clams were sent abroad. France alone accounted for 1,208 tons.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)