Peru to approve largest Tropical Pacific Sea Reserve

Photo by: Walter Wust

Photo by: Walter Wust

Peru’s Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) and its National Parks Service (SERNANP) are putting forward a proposal to create the Tropical Pacific Sea Reserve, a conservation space in the warm seas off the coast of the Piura and Tumbes regions of Peru.

The Peruvian tropical Pacific sea is home to a wealth of biological diversity of the highest social and economic importance. Scientific studies have allowed MINAM and SERNANP to identify four priority zones for conservation as natural protected areas: Foca Island, El Ñuro cove, the reefs of Punta Sal and the Máncora banks.

MINAM and SERNANP consider the Peruvian tropical Pacific sea to be Peru’s most valuable asset against the threat of climate change and a vital space to develop its biological and fisheries productivity. Every day its waters employ thousands of artisanal fishermen, as they have done so since pre-Hispanic times. It is here that the cold and warm currents of the south Pacific converge, generating the greatest biodiversity in all of the Peruvian seas.

It is a refuge for nearly all of the world’s whale species and a habitat for endangered species such as marine turtles and tens of creatures that science is only now discovering but, above all, it is a priority area for guaranteeing the sustainable use of marine resources by future generations.

The general aim of the proposed Tropical Pacific Seas Reserved Zone is to conserve the area that presents the highest biological diversity of the Peruvian sea.

On Foca Island, El Ñuro cove, the reefs of Punta Sal and the Máncora banks, the main use of these resources is artisanal fishing, mostly by the surrounding population. Although they are organized in such a way that their fishing does not extend beyond the first 5 nautical miles, lately they are being affected by illegal fishing activities and it is taking its toll on the local artisanal fishermen as well as on the balance of this ecosystem.

In parallel there has been an exponential increase in tourism due the area’s potential of for recreation activities on beaches, aquatic sports, sport fishing and turtle and whale watching. This tourism sector is growing and is supported by tourism operators and hotels to lodge tourists and sports fishermen.

Among the beaches that are located facing the proposed Reserve Zone and where tourism has increased are Yacilla beach, La Islilla, La Tortuga, Colán, Cabo Blanco, Los Organos, Máncora, Punta Sal, Punta Mero, Acapulco, Zorritos, Puerto Pizarro and Bocapán.

The proposed reserve area also has high potential for the development of hydrocarbons with a number of oil exploration blocks operating in the area. These have preexisting rights which the proposed zone will duly recognize and respect throughout its space. Furthermore, as the goal of this area will be to conserve biological diversity through sustainable use, it is clear that any future categorization as an area of direct use would not generate any legal incompatibility with the possible signing of new contracts for hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation.

Both MINAM and SERNANP have highlighted that “harmonizing clean hydrocarbon exploitation, sustainable fishing, and natural conservation will be an example for the entire world that in Peru development is not hindered neither by long term planning nor by the rational use of our resources”.

Objectives of the proposal

The objectives of this proposal are to contribute to the conservation of spaces where species reproduce, grow, migrate or take refuge, especially those [species] of economic importance; and these spaces are necessary to guarantee and enhance biological productivity.

Likewise, to recover and conserve biological diversity in order to generate social and economic benefits through the sustainable use of its resources, especially of fishing; and to promote an integrated management that involves the different competent institutions, mainly the Regional Government, local population and the private sector.

Finally, to complement the current natural protected areas system (SINANPE) by incorporating the areas that correspond to the Biogeographic Province of the Eastern Tropical Pacific and its transition zone between the cold and warm currents of the Peruvian sea.