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Northern Peru’s first marine reserve on the horizon


All life on Earth depends on healthy oceans.

Oceans cover 72% of the Earth, supply half of its oxygen and provide a range of goods and services, such as food, habitat and medicine, that are an integral part of our health and economies.

Today, on World Oceans Day, we celebrate the exceptionally biodiverse coastal region of northern Peru, and the local fishermen’s efforts to protect their waters. 

60% of all Peruvian fishermen live near and depend on Peru’s Tropical Pacific Sea.

Peru’s northern sea is one of the richest and most important marine ecosystems in the country. Home to species such as marine turtles, humpback whales and the endangered Humboldt penguin, the area holds roughly 70% of Peru’s marine biodiversity, including many endemic species, or species that only exist in that region. The coastal waters constitute the greatest upwelling system on the planet and support one of the world’s largest fisheries – accounting for nearly 20% of global fish stocks and 60% of Peru’s seafood consumption.

Despite its high levels of biodiversity, endemism, and economic significance, this ecoregion lacks legal protection and faces enormous threats including unsustainable fishing practices, industrial pollution, and unmanaged tourism.

Isla Foca, off the coast of Peru, is home to the peculiar blue-footed booby.

Recognizing the urgent need to protect this area, artisanal fishermen seek to create northern Peru’s first national marine reserve. Nature and Culture International has joined forces with the fishermen, local communities and Peru’s National Park System (SERNANP) in an effort to establish Grau Tropical Marine Reserve, protecting 286,642 acres and threatened artisanal fishing activity for around 5,000 families.

The proposed reserve is located off of the coast of Tumbes and Piura, encompassing four critical areas: 1. Punta Sal Reef, home to record numbers of fish, corals, marine sponges and echinoderms; 2. Cabo Blanco-El Ñuro, a shelter for marine turtles; 3. Foca Island, a nursery for fish; and 4. Banco de Máncora, home to basaltic rock serving as a “magnet” for underwater life.

With technical support from Nature and Culture, the proposed reserve is now in the third project phase, public consultation. This will be followed by the preparation of the final technical file for the area’s creation.

As declared by Peru’s Minister of Environment Fabiola Muñoz, “[Peru is] putting value on the natural capital of the country not only in the Amazon, but also in our sea.” Nature and Culture and fishermen are hopeful that this groundbreaking initiative will move to the final phase this year!

Learn more about the fishermen’s fight to protect their livelihoods and Peru’s biodiversity in the video below.

Interested in protecting some of the most productive places on our planet? Check out Nature and Culture’s work in coastal and marine areas in Latin America.