01 / 1998
According to FAO, there are 116 species of marine mammals in the world. Of these,60 are found in the southeast Pacific (Ecuador, Chile, Peru). It is commonly recognised here that the pinnipeda compete with fish for resources. In Peru the southern sea lion (Otaria byronia), because of their great numbers, pose a huge problem for the artisanal fisheries. In Peru, this is a particularly significant problem and, since 1970, when the Ministry of Fisheries was created, it has received greater government attention. Yet, 27 years after the creation of the Ministry, only three multisectoral official commissions have been constituted to tackle the problems created for fishermen by the sea lion.
Since 1991, Peru’s artisanal fishworkers have been represented by the Federation for the Integration and Unification of the Artisanal Fishworkers of Peru (FIUPAP). The Federation is very actively involved in developing and promoting the artisanal sector. It has a representative in the official commission constituted to determine "actions to diminish the interference of the southern sea lion in the artisanal fishery."
According to the census by FIUPAP and IMARPE (Instituto del Mar del Peru)in 1995-96, there are 6,258 artisanal fishing vessels. The total population of Peru’s artisanal fishworkers, including those in the coastal and continental areas, is 45,000. Of this, 40 per cent fish without vessels.
The population of sea lions has been increasing rapidly, and the numbers have expanded from 30,054 in 1971 to 195,000 in 1991. There is an urgent need to regulate their growth.
IMARPE recommended the harvest of 2,800 and 4,500 sea lions in 1984 and 1992 respectively, based on the principles of a Plan of Global Action for Marine Mammals developed between 1978 and 1983.
During a meeting of experts in Costa Rica in 1995, the Peruvian delegation, represented by IMARPE, recommended legislation for a programme to control the population of southern sea lions and also to curtail their interaction with the fisheries through means that do not negatively affect their population.
However, these recommendations have not been applied in Peru, mainly due to pressures exerted by national environmental groups, which resist any action to control the population of southern sea lions. Worse, these groups do not furnish alternative solutions for this problem.
Granted that these days the trade-environment nexus is an important and controversial subject internationally. Yet, in the application of unilateral measures under the pretext of environmental protection, there seem to be forces working against the commercial interests of Peru. The access of its artisanal fishery products to the markets of developed countries would be affected.
The southern sea lion does not figure in international conservation agreements because its survival is not in danger. On the other hand, the negative economic impact on the incomes of the fishworkers and communities of Peru is not taken into account, nor is the significant contribution of artisanal fishery to global nutrition security.
A preliminary study by FIUPAP has estimated the annual damage caused by the southern sea lion to the artisanal fleet at US $64 million. FIUPAP is now evaluating the economic impact on other techniques of fishing, so as to assess the larger economic consequences.
Considering that fishing is the second most important economic activity after mining, the negative impact of the sea lions on the incomes of Peruvian fishermen is considerable.
In Peru the growth in the population of sea lions is threatening fishery resources and the livelihood of fishers. There is a need to find a rational solution to the problem, keeping in mind both the survival rights of communities dependent on fishery resources, as well as the rights of marine mammals to live in the sea. It is the responsibility of conservation and environmental groups to work towards such a solution. A refusal to do so will pitch such groups against fishworker organisations, as has happened in other parts of the world. It will close the path of dialogue and will prove counter-productive in the long run.
Artículos y dossiers
MILLA, Manuel, The roar of the sea lion in. Samudra Report, 1997/07, 18