An update from the Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru Hope Spot!
By: Eduardo G. Salcedo
Lima, Peru’s bustling capital city of almost 10 million inhabitants is sandwiched between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The country experienced a decade of prosperity between 2004 and 2014, a result of economic reforms that attracted international investments. It was a welcomed breath of fresh air from the decade before, a dark economic period marked by inflation, corruption, and guerrillas.
New business opportunities arose. Peru’s gastronomic industry flourished and soon thousands of restaurants from cheap to high-end establishments popped up all over the city. The result was an increased demand for seafood, a natural resource Peru may be blessed with but not without costs to the marine environment.
The secret of Peru’s marine richness lies in the oceanographic systems occurring off its coast. The cold Humboldt Current moves northward and collides with the warm waters of the Northern Equatorial Current off the coast of Piura, just 150 km south of Ecuador. One of the world’s largest upwelling systems carries nutrient-rich waters from the depths. Colliding these three systems creates an abundantly productive marine ecosystem, unlike anywhere else on Earth.
The area sustains a large biomass of mega-biodiversity and numerous endemic and unknown species. It is estimated that more than 70% of the fish caught for Peru’s internal consumption comes from this area.
Scientists call it the Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru, a magical place where whales concentrate on feeding and giving birth, where manta rays and whale shark migrate, and where dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles and penguins coexist. Tuna, sharks, marlin and grouper, invertebrates, fish, and marine birds also call it their home. Numerous fishing villages exist in the area and make their living mainly from the sea. Their fishing methods are ancient and sustainable and only harvest what they need. However, illegal fishing both national and international fueled by an insatiable appetite for seafood is putting increased pressure on an already stressed environment. The sea and local communities are paying the toll.
Conservation + Research Provide Hope
For the past few years, a team of Peruvian biologists is dedicating their work to study and protect this area. Thanks to their efforts, new species have been discovered and recorded, baselines have been established, and management and conservation recommendations have been crafted and presented to authorities. Still, scientists have barely scratched the surface and many new discoveries are waiting to be brought to light. Their goal is to send national government authorities an urgent message about the need to protect this precious sea and establish the Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru Marine Reserve. Local fisherman and authorities, national and international NGOs and members of the public have joined these efforts. Miami-based NGO Follow E.G.S. is supporting the creation of the marine protected area by collaborating with research scientists from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, School of Marine Biology.
Last September, the Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru was selected as a Mission Blue Hope Spot. Follow E.G.S. with its Peruvian collaborators Yuri Hooker and Nina Pardo produced a short documentary titled “The Tropical Sea of Peru: A Paradise of Hope,” which was shown at the Blue Ocean Film Festival and received an Honorable Mention.
View The Tropical Sea of Peru: A Paradise of Hope, below!
In Peru, a supporting campaign collected more than 120,000 signatures to be presented to the President but despite all the support and momentum gained, some members of the government are unsupportive due to economic interests related to oil exploration and extraction.
The Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru is a unique place of unmatched natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Although little is known about the area, long term protection is of utmost importance before it’s too late. Follow E.G.S. is working to bring international awareness with hopes of bringing scientists and members of the diving community to discover the area and help fuel the growing ecotourism industry.
Join the conversation: #HopeSpots!