From Securing Rights for Small-scale Fishers to Property for “Efficient” Producers: The Privatisation of Scallop Production in Sechura Bay, Peru

Posted: 27 Dec 2021

See all articles by Achim Schlüter

Achim Schlüter

Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT); Jacobs University

Date Written: December 27, 2021


Sechura Bay in Northern Peru represents the most important location to produce the Peruvian bay scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) – not only on national but also international level. This business emerged from the initiative of a hand full of small-scale entrepreneurial dive fishers finding ideal culture conditions in the large bay of Sechura, and is by now an important sector of the Peruvian economy, producing these molluscs mainly for the highly competitive export market. In Sechura, it started as an informal, open access activity, where, as business rose, exclusive extraction and later territorial use rights have been granted formally under Peruvian law to small-scale fisher associations. While scallop culture is highly profitable under “normal” (environmental) conditions in Sechura Bay, it is, however, investment intensive and a financially extremely risky business, for example when El Niño related dynamics cause scallop die-offs. After a de facto privatisation into the hands of those with the financial means, ability to take the risk, and other capabilities, the latest law has paved the way for large-scale investors to hold all important property rights and to take control of all strategic steps of the production process. This qualitative case study tells the story of the privatisation of the scallop business in Sechura Bay, using the Institutional and Development Framework and various theories around institutional change. The story told is, on the one hand, conventional in the sense that a typical process of grabbing was observed: weak actors having to leave or being pushed out of a particular place or business. On the other hand, this process of grabbing took several turns: first, weak actors, small-scale fishers, could secure their rights by achieving formalization and hence recognition from the Peruvian state, to then lose them succinctly due to a whole panoply of reasons to powerful newly entering players, powerful investors.

Keywords: Privatisation, Institutional Change, Institutional Analysis and Development Framework

JEL Classification: O13, Q15, Q22

Suggested Citation

Schlüter, Achim, From Securing Rights for Small-scale Fishers to Property for “Efficient” Producers: The Privatisation of Scallop Production in Sechura Bay, Peru (December 27, 2021). Available at SSRN:

Achim Schlüter (Contact Author)

Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) ( email )

Fahrenheitstr. 6
Bremen, Bremen 28359

Jacobs University ( email )

Campus Ring 1
Research V, Room 40
Bremen, 28759

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