With just over 16 million people, Ecuador is South America’s 7th most populated country which is a little more than Bolivia and a little less than Chile. Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean at the equator after which the country is named. The country has a coastline of 2,237 km that borders with Colombia in the north and Peru in the east and south. The climate is very diverse ranging from the desert-like southern coast, to the cooler Andes mountains, to the tropical plains of the Amazon basin. Rivers follow the southern border and spill into northwest Peru. After oil, fisheries and aquaculture is Ecuador’s second largest export sector. Ecuador is the largest tuna producer of South and North America, producing about 4% of the world its total tuna catches. In terms of tuna exports, Ecuador is the world its second largest exporter of prepared and preserved tuna after Thailand. In aquaculture, Pacific whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) is the most important species produced. The country’s production exploded in recent years, making Ecuador currently the world third largest L. vannamei producer after China and Indonesia. The market for Ecuador’s shrimp also changed drastically. While earlier the European Union and the United States were by far the largest markets, currently China is importing about 50% of Ecuador’s total shrimp output.

In Ecuador
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Species in Ecuador

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Ecuador

Ecuador's seafood sector

In 2015, Ecuador's total fisheries production was about 1.07 million tonnes of which approximately 640,000 tonnes were derived from capture fisheries and 425,000 tonnes from aquaculture. The fisheries and aquaculture sector contributes significantly to the economic and social development of the country and is an important source of employment. FAO calculates that the sector currently employs about 80,000 to 100,000 people directly and indirectly. Fisheries exports decisively contribute to the country's balance of trade. In 2016, exports of fish and fishery products were valued at US$ 3.7 billion, ranked second after oil. The tuna and shrimp industry, the two most important sub-sectors, are both characterized by a high degree of vertical integration and as such the sectors are relatively transparent. The fisheries sector contributes on average about 7% of total animal protein supply. Estimated per capita consumption ranged from 5 to 8 kg per year during the last decade.

Fisheries and aquaculture production

Source: FAO 2017

Fisheries and aquaculture production in Ecuador has been increasing significantly between 2011 and 2015. Fisheries production growth is mainly driven by increased landings of tuna. Although other segments also grew, the increase of tuna landings was more significant. Tuna catches by Ecuadorian vessels only account for about 50% of Ecuador its total tuna processing volume of approximately 500,000

tonnes. The balance enters the country under a special duty-free customs provision for processing and subsequent re-export.

In aquaculture this growth was driven mainly by the expansion of shrimp aquaculture where production in 2016 almost reached 400,000 tonnes. Besides shrimp aquaculture, production in Ecuador is relatively limited and consists mainly of a small volume of tilapia. This is remarkable, especially in view of the potential of fish farming in the Amazon basin and the highlands.

Production per species in 2015 (tonnes)

Source: FAO 2017

Wild marine fish contribute about 60% of total fishery and aquaculture production. The fishing industry consists of a tuna fleet, a small pelagic fleet, a demersal and white fish fleet and a shrimp fishery. The tuna fleet is by far the most important with about 116 purse seiners and employing 24,000 people. The fleet operates mainly in the Eastern

Pacific and along the coasts of Galapagos Islands. The age of the vessels is relatively old with 38 years in 2015. Therefore, the government actively seeks for investors to come in.

Ecuador's pelagic fishery consists mainly of sardines, anchovies and mackerel. Most of the anchovies and sardines are canned for the export market, with the remainder being reduced to fish meal for the domestic aquaculture sector and for exports. The pelagic fishing fleet is composed of 152 vessels that operate up to 70 nautical miles (nm) from the coast.

Ecuador's artisanal fishery consists of 15,500 fishing boats generating an average catch of 30,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes of pelagic (63%), demersal (29%) and other species (18%). They are landed in 138 different landing sites. Some 58,000 people are employed in this fishery. For more information on the shrimp sector go to the cultured shrimp page.

Seafood export markets

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

Seafood exports from Ecuador have been increasing considerably in recent years from US$ 2.3 billion in 2011 to US$ 4 billion in 2014 and US$ 3.7 billion in 2016. Export markets for shrimp and fish vary widely. In general the United States and the European Union are traditionally the most important markets, but in recent years China's and

Vietnam's share has grown significantly, mainly because China started to source shrimp from Ecuador. Exports of shrimp to Vietnam are likely going to Haiphong, where they are re-exported to China. While China's official share decreased significantly in 2016, export via Vietnam has become the most important absorbing over 40% of total shrimp exports. The European Union and the United States only had a respective 27% and 21% shrimp market share in 2016.

For tuna the markets are different. Out of a total export of about 193,167 tonnes in 2016, the top 5 markets for prepared and preserved tuna products in 2015 were Spain (50,505 tonnes), The Netherlands (20,300 tonnes), the United States (20,187 tonnes), Colombia (19,622 tonnes) and Argentina (10,689 tonnes).

It was already mentioned that Ecuador also imports raw materials for its tuna processing industry under a duty free construction. Although imports still take place, the volume has reduced significantly from about 160,000 tonnes in 2011 to only 47,000 tonnes in 2016. In 2016 imports consisted of skipjack tuna (20,000 tonnes), yellowfin tuna (18,000 tonnes) and bigeye tuna (6,500 tonnes).

Export product composition in 2016 (US$ mln)

Source: Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre,

Exports of fishery products consist mainly of canned tuna and tuna loins (more than 60%). Important to note again is that only half of the raw material for these products origins from Ecuador, the remainder is imported from other sources. The government is supporting the exports of

canned tuna and tuna loins with a 3% cash back draw based on the FOB container value. Other important export products from the fishery are fish meal (about 10%), canned mackerel and sardines (about 7%) and frozen tuna (about 3%), but also other species such as hake and wild shrimp are available.

Exports of shrimp mainly consist of head-on shell-on (HOSO) Pacific whiteleg shrimp (L. vannamei). Ecuador has a unique product as the shrimp sector is highly integrated and based on an extensive production sector resulting in high quality products which are in high demand in the European Union as raw material for the cooking industry and in China as a premium product in the restaurant sector. The exports of shrimp are expected to increase slightly in coming years as long as disease outbreaks do not hamper production.

While shrimp is mainly exported from Guayaquil where most of the shrimp processing industry is concentrated, tuna products are mainly exported from Manabi where most of the tuna canneries have their facilities. Both cities have an export harbor that is well connected to international shipping lines.


Last updated: 01/10/2018

  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Shrimp 24 49,063
  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Shrimp 15 NA
  • GlobalG.A.P.

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Shrimp 12 NA

Trade and Investment regulations

Ecuador scores 114 out of 190 on the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business in’ Index ranking especially low at the easy of starting a business (166th) due to unclear procedures.  Ecuador ranks just before Uganda and just after Antigua and Barbuda. This section provides you with up to date information about trading and investing in aquaculture, fisheries and processing in Ecuador. Click the links below to learn more!

  1. GSP facilities and Free Trade Agreements
  2. Setting up a branch office
  3. FDI regulation and subsidiary companies
  4. Taxes and duties
  5. Custom procedures
  6. Arbitration law
  7. Cultural do’s and don’ts

Sector support programs

  • ASC shrimp certification

    WWF supports Songa to approve its farms under ASC standards. This was realized in 2016. Under the same program WWF tries to replicate its work from Belize to Ecuador supporting more farmers in Ecuador to get ASC Approved. The program is funded by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and runs until June 2017.

    WWF Ecuador and Central America
  • Ecuador Mahi

    In this project WWF attempts to drive the Mahi Mahi long line fishery in the Eastern Pacific Ocean towards MSC certification. Activities focus on reducing turtle by-catch, increasing observer presence on long line vessels and improving fisheries regulations. The project would be finalized in December 2016 and the project managed to get 57% of the indicators approved by MSC compared to only 36% when the project started.

    WWF Ecuador