NGO, industry accusations fly over battle for fishing rights in Peruvian national reserve

Peru’s National Fisheries Society is seeking to fish 5 miles off the coast of the Paracas National Reserve, but NGOs say allowing fishing could devastate the environment
The shoreline of the Paracas National Reserve
The shoreline of the Paracas National Reserve | Photo courtesy of dsokol66/Shutterstock
6 Min

A battle is brewing over fishing rights near Peru's Paracas National Reserve.

Peru’s National Fisheries Society (SNP) has petitioned for the ability to fish 5 miles off the reserve’s shores, but environmental and conservation organizations are fighting the request.

The ecologically rich reserve is located on the coast of the Pisco province, just over 250 kilometers south of Lima. Its 335,000-hectare area – 200,000 hectares of which extend into the Pacific Ocean – was established as a national reserve in 1975 in order to protect threatened coastal marine ecosystems and conserve biological diversity in the area.

In January 2023, the SNP filed a lawsuit after the Peruvian National Service of Natural Protected Areas (Sernanp) rejected its request to fish within the reserve. According to the suit, SNP maintains it holds fishing rights preexisting the creation of the reserve in 1975 and that the protected area’s master plan excluded industrial fishing activities without scientific backing for the move.

Sernanp has argued the area is reserved for artisanal fishing activity only, warning that allowing industrial fishing “would decrease food availability for birds and mammals, harming their reproductive processes and recovery of their population levels.” 

Manuel Bartra, legal director of the Animal Rescue and Welfare Association (ARBA), called SNP’s request “one of the most grotesque cases of corporate greed in recent decades,” Infobae reported.

Benjamín Marticorena, president of the Peruvian government's National Council of Science, Technology, and Technological Innovation (Concytec), said in a statement SNP's claim “is a cause of outrage and grave concern and must be firmly and categorically rejected.”

NGO Coastal Areas and Marine Resources (Acorema) Biologist Julio Reyes said permitting industrial fishing fleets in the reserve “would mean the total elimination of coastal marine biodiversity.”

“Paracas is the last refuge of hundreds of marine species, and it would be a crime against our own ecosystem to let them enter,” he told Diario Correo.

SNP has taken issue with the backlash, particularly singling out environmental NGO Oceana. 

The organization “has undertaken an aggressive disinformation campaign with the purpose of prohibiting the industrial anchovy fleet from continuing to operate outside the 5 miles of the Paracas National Reserve, trying to truncate the future of thousands of workers, fishermen, and their families with false arguments that do not withstand any analysis,” SNP President Eduardo Ferreyros said in a statement posted on the group's website.

“Let us remember that, for more than 40 years, the industrial anchovy fleet has fished outside the 5 miles of the Paracas Reserve, and this activity has always been carried out in harmony with the environment and taking care of fishing resources. Proof of this is the healthy population of sea lions and birds, as well as the abundance of anchovy that were never at risk from industrial fishing,” he said.

Ferreyros said scientific evidence shows the proposed industrial fishing in the area will not cause damage to marine ecosystems, as evidenced by ... 

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