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AQUACULTURETALENT SPOTLIGHT ON KATHERINE AYALA – AQUACULTURE IN PERU

When we think of Peru the first thing that crosses our minds are the Incas, Nazca Circles and the Machu Picchu. A beautiful country, with amazing archeological sites, magnificent culture, and great people, that started developing their aquaculture industry back in 1934, raising Rainbow Trout mainly for sport fishing purposes. In the 70s they started harvesting Prawns, and then it was in the 80s when they started raising Tilapia and Scallops (Concha Abanico), which became a pretty intensive industry up until this day, along with prawns. Most of the Prawn production (7.311 Tons per year) is focused in Tumbes and Piura, as for Scallops (2.961 Tons per year) is located in Ancash and Lima, mainly.

I had the opportunity to have a chat with Katherine Ayala, she is 32 years old and she is a fisheries Engineer in Peru. Her first job experience was as a resident engineer in a project that was aiming to create protocols for bay workers in a Scallop harvesting site, this workers were used to extracting the product and the whole idea of the project was to help them understand how important it was to also cultivate and hatch the Scallops.

What made Katherine want to join the aquaculture industry?

From a young age, marine biology was her passion, but then when she finished her degree in Engineering, a company proposed her to make her dissertation research in Sechura Bay, in Piura, this was a great opportunity for her as she was already in that stage of her career where she needed to complete her dissertation and then this was an opportunity to be close to the professional life.

From that project then she moved to a company that specialized in Scallops hatching, however she was in charge of microalgae production, which was the feed for the main product, scallops, which she did for almost three years and enjoyed greatly.

What did Katherine enjoy the most? Hatchery or Harvesting?

Actually, construction and commissioning. After she left the Hatchery she was called to create and start a scallop’s hatchery from scratch in Chimbote. So initially what she did was build the project and present it to management, this project she created included everything they were going to need to build and run the hatchery, from looking where exactly the hatchery would need to be located, contacting providers, to buying and setting up the tools to start operations.

Once the hatchery was built she then had to take care, along with the legal department, of all the permits and authorizations to start running the hatchery. After all the permits and authorizations, either from sanitary authorities or production authorities were in file, her job was to step back from all of the administrative procedures, and hop on the production again, so she was in charge of Scallop Seed production and microalgae production, microalgae became her strong suit.

How has Katherine’s overall experience in the industry have been?

Being able to interact in almost every stage of the production has been really enjoyable. Helping the fishermen in her first experience, where they were more centered in extraction, but they were still really open to learn sustainable production, was a good feeling for her. Her biggest challenge in that project is the ability to transfer all her technical knowledge to a more practical one, help them understand how important it is to have a sustainable production. What she has enjoyed the most has been that, transferring and receiving knowledge from all stages of production.

Katherine had recently been seeking new job opportunities and she speaks from her most recent experience.

She recently did a competitive examination for a job opportunity in a State Institution, so the application process is different. The most challenging part was gathering all the documents and information they asked her, plus the Coronavirus situation in the country was at peak at the time, and it was all virtual. Her interview panel included 5 people, two out of which were women. Her experience in the institution is there are a lot of women working in, but it is more administrative centered.

She recently did a competitive examination for a job opportunity in a State Institution, so the application process is different. The most challenging part was gathering all the documents and information they asked her, plus the Coronavirus situation in the country was at peak at the time, and it was all virtual. Her interview panel included 5 people, two out of which were women. Her experience in the institution is there are a lot of women working in, but it is more administrative centered.

What would Katherine say to her younger 17-year-old self?

“I would tell her that aquaculture is beautiful and worth it, you are going to make a lot of sacrifices, because aquaculture production sites are really remote and far from home, but that she’ll have the opportunity to contribute to the industry’s growth and all that will line up with her personal objectives. The job is beautiful and fulfilling. To give a bit more attention to constant and permanent training, not to stay too far from the whole academic and technical setting, to keep herself updated, always”.

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