Police IT crime experts have moved in on the offices of Peru's Marine Institute Imarpe to try to discover the source of a leak of anchovy biomass data that may have allegedly been passed on for the benefit of fishing companies, La Republica reported.
Investigators exercised their authority to locate a computer from where data collected by three Imarpe scientific vessels was deposited before allegedly being passed to the hands of people working for fishing industry firms.
Information gathered during a scientific expedition from Jan. 4-12 confirmed the presence of juveniles anchovy running to 97 percent.
Allegations have been brought into even sharper focus by a decision in mid-January to cut Peru's second north central zone anchovy season short with only 36 percent of the 2.78 million metric tons harvested because of the abundance of juvenile fish.
The quota was set on the basis of a biomass of 8.3 million metric tons, which, according to reports, Imarpe officials knew was too high.
But before the scientific data was passed to Ministry of Production officials, it is alleged to have been leaked to former Imarpe employees working for companies whose main tasks are anchovy harvesting and fishmeal production.
Peru's anchovy fishing and fishmeal industries have been shaken by a scandal over the alleged inflation of the country's anchovy quota.
The La Republica newspaper published separate recordings of evidence, part of an official investigation into charges that higher quotas had been fixed allegedly to favor the fishmeal industry and its suppliers.
As many as 15 employees at Peru's Marine Institute (Imarpe) including scientific chief Renato Guevara Carrasco are reportedly under investigation in relation to the alleged manipulation of data that led to the overstatement of biomass and quotas.
The newspaper's website published a follow up report revealing that fishing companies knew that quotas were "incorrect."
Details of the scandal started to seep out after Peru's government suddenly announced measures to reorganize and modernize Imarpe.
Fishing and fishmeal companies have so far made no comment.