It's a hard time for Peruvians, as last week and for the next three months they won't be eating any shrimp. None. The baby shrimps are merrily on their way to greater growth, so they must not be disturbed. This period, known as 'Veda de Camarón' or 'Ban on Shrimp, is placed in order protect against the over fishing and possible extinction. It takes place each year during the breeding season, in the months of January, February and March. For every single shrimp someone dares to eat during this ban, 2,500 shrimp's eggs are lost. This breaks the vital cycle of life for this species.
The biggest quantities of Peruvian river shrimp are found in the rivers in Castilla, Camana and Islay in Arequipa. From there they are transported to the city where there is high demand for shrimp. Arequipa, a region located in the southwest of Peru, is famous for traditional recipes full of spices and succulent shrimp. In every bite of this big and tasty crustacean one can experience the mature shrimp's journey along the river.
These delicious shrimps have inspired dishes like Cauche de Camaron, Chupe de Camarones or Ocopa con Camarones. Due to the vast amount of shrimps we like eating in Peru, its true that we need to control our desires and those of our fellow tourists who are coming to our restaurants more and more making Peru a top dining out destination in the world.
The shrimp ban aims to preserve this species and ensure it is sustainable and plentiful for all, so it's forbidden to extract, commercialize, transport, store or process any shrimp. During this time no restaurant can offer shrimp; not even if they have been frozen before the ban started.
The Peruvian office in charge, 'Ministerio de la Producción', organizes inspections to prevent the illegal commercialization of this shrimp at this time and therefore Peruvians are becoming aware of this legislation and supporting it and in turn, demanding that restaurants respect this ban. There is a phone number and email that anyone can contact to report the breaking of this law. And if caught it's not only a penalty that must be paid by the accused, perpetrators could also be arrested. In Peru the law states that for anyone who extracts any shrimps during the forbidden periods, quantities or zones or uses forbidden fishing procedures, may face between one to three years in jail.
Many of Peru's top chefs like Renzo Quiroz and Javier Wong support this ban, promoting alternative ingredients to the traditional shrimp recipes like crab, fish or squid. At our restaurant in London, we are none the wiser as we have no chance of even getting our hands on the stunningly delicious Peruvian shrimps even if we wanted in the legal period. So, if you do happen to be a shrimp lover, find out the exact dates of the ban and go when its over so you can devour some of the most amazing dishes. As for Peruvians, well, we will happily wait until the end of the ban because smart people know that all things come to those who wait.