Peru: Protecting Critical Habitats in the World’s Top Fishing Country

Peru Image

Oceana – With the launch of this new campaign in Peru, the world’s largest fishing country (by weight), there are opportunities to establish new MPAs for four tropical marine sites in Northern Peru. These include Mancora Bank, Punta Sal Reefs, El Ñuro Bay, and Foca Island. On the northernmost coastline of Peru, a mixture of cold and warm currents gives rise to a rich, biologically unique area where sea turtles swim with fur seals and penguins hunt near vivid reefs. The waters off the coast of Piura and Tumbes support 70 percent of Peru’s marine biodiversity, and supply the majority of the seafood that’s eaten within the country.

Peru is home to one of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world; making it the world’s largest fishing country. Twice as many pounds of anchoveta are caught every year in Peru as any other kind of fish is caught anywhere in the world. Peru is, along with Chile, home to the productive Humboldt Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Together, Chile and Peru represent 15 percent of the world’s fisheries. Tunas, seabirds, sea lions and other marine mammals feed on the anchoveta and other fish. However, each year, seven million metric tons of anchoveta are removed from the ocean and unloaded onto more than 100 fishmeal plants, where it is reduced into fishmeal and fish-oil – both used as feed for farmed fish and pigs. In 2010, Peru exported more than a million tons, worth $1.6 billion, of this product, mostly to Asia. These high numbers create an incentive to overfish. Since the 1990s, overfishing has led to severe declines in coastal fish and groundfish, which is threatening the livelihood of more than 37,000 artisanal fishermen. Unfortunately, the main Peruvian fisheries have not been well-managed. In addition, only two percent of Peru’s marine territories are protected in marine parks, primarily in: the Paracas National Reserve, and the Guano Islands and Capes National Reserve, a system of 33 tiny reserves covering the length of the Peruvian Coast.

Opportunity & Goals

Currently, the Peruvian Protected Area system (SINANPE) has limited coverage of coastal and marine ecosystems, including MPAs only in the cold Humboldt Current area. The tropical marine ecosystems in Northern Peru are not included at all in this system. The importance of this area lies in its great biodiversity: the targeted areas include 238 species of fish, 68 species of crustaceans, 148 species of molluscs, 6 species of echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish), 19 species of cetaceans (whales) and 4 species of turtles, representing 35% of the Peruvian sea species. They also have natural beds, seamounts and sea canyons that are perfect places for the reproduction of whales and other unique species concentration. It is part of a marine biological corridor that serves as a space for the migration of sea turtles, whales and seabirds. The main activity within the proposed areas is artisanal fishing, which brings together 7,599 associated fishermen in 303 guilds, followed by industrial fishing. In total, approximately 114,464 hectares (274,714.032 acres) would be protected through this project.

The establishment of these new protected areas will lay the groundwork for the development of sustainable tourism and sport fishing initiatives in the region. Also, local artisanal fishers and tourism operators’ associations support the establishment of the new MPAs because they can help mitigate the impacts of oil and gas exploitation operations that affect their fishery grounds and navigation routes. The creation of the Tropical Pacific Seas Reserved Zone is backed by a big network of advocates. Peru’s Ministry of the Environment, tens of thousands of Peruvian citizens, international nonprofits and even American senators are pushing Peru’s current administration to finalize the designation of these areas as a reserved zone.

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