Academic journal article International Journal of Labour Research

Peruvian Fisheries: A Transition towards Labour and Environmental Sustainability?

Academic journal article International Journal of Labour Research

Peruvian Fisheries: A Transition towards Labour and Environmental Sustainability?

Article excerpt

Peru is a global fishing power. The industry provides over 200,000 jobs nationwide when taking into account the entire chain: extraction, processing and distribution, including a flourishing restaurant industry based on fish. The particular characteristics of the Peruvian coast, the variability of fishing stocks depending on El Niño, and several dramatic fisheries crises, have shown the complexity of managing the country's fishing resources and the absolute priority of doing so in a sustainable manner. The impacts suffered during previous fisheries crises have been very strong, although the impact on employment has been insufficiently documented and is still not properly taken into account in government policies.

This article presents some of the challenges, the lessons we can learn from previous transitions and restructuring processes, and the proposals that workers can contribute to sustainability in the sector and a just transition towards it. The state of fishing resources and the legal framework are described in the first two sections, while the next two address the contribution of the sector to the economy and job creation, and deficits in working conditions. The fifth and sixth sections focus on current transitions, social impacts and accompanying measures, and the final section discusses the transition in the light of the Conclusions of the International Labour Conference in 2013, to identify achievements and areas for improvement.

Peru's rich fishing resources

The world has several coastal upwelling systems on the western sides of certain continents, where northern winds cause cold water from the bottom of the sea to be carried up to the surface. The upwelled water is enriched with sediments and nutrients that result in high primary productivity (Chavez and Messié, 2009; Ayón et al., 2008). Although the Peruvian coast is not home to the most intense upwelling ecosystem in the world, the area is the most important in terms of the quantity of fish caught (see figure 1); catches are several times higher than those in other upwelling systems (Brochier et al., 2010).

This complex system is made up of flows between water bodies and has seasonal variability due to the south-east trade winds, which are weak in summer and strong in winter. Additionally, anomalous aperiodic variations occur. The unusually warm periods known as "El Niño" cause many species (particularly Peruvian anchoveta, Engraulis ringem, the basis of Peru's fishery production) to migrate to other latitudes where the upper layers of the sea are not so warm. These diverging warm and cold ocean currents make the Peruvian sea one of the most biodiverse and productive in the world.

Industrial fishing (mainly anchoveta and sardine) began in the midtwentieth century, so this industry is more than 50 years old (World Bank, 2007). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 6.3 per cent of global catches in 2012 came from Peruvian waters. This places the country as the fourth largest producer after China, Indonesia and the United States (FAO, 2014). Peru is also the top producer of fishmeal.

Despite this enormous wealth, growing domestic and foreign demand for fish is putting this resource, the entire marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of coastal community small-scale fishers under increasing pressure. Additionally, deficiencies in regulation and control of both industrial and non-industrial fisheries are increasing the strain on marine ecosystems.

Fishing sustainability is not only a Peruvian problem, it is a global problem. According to the most recent FAO report (2014), 61 per cent of global fish stocks are at the limits of exploitation, while 29 per cent are overexploited; the global catch rate (from both marine and inland waters) has tripled in the last 60 years. In addition, mismanagement is leading to serious economic consequences, as illustrated by a study by the World Bank and FAO (2009) which estimated that inadequate fisheries management causes a global loss of earnings of approximately US$50 billion annually. …

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