The small mining community of San Juan de Marcona, one of five districts in the province of Nazca, Southern Peru, depends on the port and most of its 20 thousand inhabitants who are fishermen and local divers who practice sustainable marine resource harvesting.
The major industry here is the Marcona Mine, but fishing has been a long established part of the local economy, however, climate change is presenting a set of challenges to the fishing community. The men, both artisan fishermen, being Julio Rubio Carnales and his brother Chicho are each from Hijos de Jacob (Sons of Jacobs) and Arca de Noe (Noah’s Ark), two of the 16 fisher folk associations along a 23-kilometre segment of the coast, that makes up their co-operative, namely: Community of Artisan Fisherfolk of Marcona (COPMAR) , where they are collaborating not only with their co-operative, but also Government, Scientific and other communities to ensure sustainable harvesting of marine resources, to the benefit of the whole fishing community.
Climate change has affected our region extensively over the last 20 years or so, with increased periods of rough seas, reduced visibility and observed changes in sea life, e.g. red sea urchin, in the Pacific Ocean, and fishing has become more dangerous due to ocean conditions and higher operational costs of fishing at sea and unable to recoup their investment, due to non-affordability by locals.
The pressures that have affected the red sea urchin population in this area is based mainly on over harvesting and depletion in numbers, resulting in the long term ban, i.e. since 2011, COPMAR members have been observing a self-imposed ban on the harvesting of the spiny sea creature to allows the species to recover. The ban will only be lifted once a COPMAR decision been taken, and the locals deem it time to start re-harvesting with continuous monitoring, but also supported and scientifically backed up by research results of the Peruvian Sea Institute, which always collaborates with the Ministry of Production and COPMAR associations themselves.
Some sea urchins were collected by the artisan fishermen for demonstration purposes, as they are highly prized and very costly, to show how climate change is affecting the sea urchin population. This year, El Nino the cycle of warm and cold sea surface temperature, in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, including a Kelvin wave occurrence, has negatively impacted the sea urchins, in terms of their defence mechanism changing, as indicated by colour, i.e. very red urchins indicated healthy species, and the lighter ones, whose spikes are depressed, indicating poor health status, with only low mortality rates in individuals, Carnales explained.
Overall, this year, ocean and climate conditions have been very variable, however, we have observed that the ocean always re-establishes itself to normal conditions, enabling the fishing community and local divers to continue sustainable harvesting to preserve and maintain species stocks, whilst at the same time ensuring their own long term livelihoods.