Site: Paracas National Reserve
What is your personal relation to the natural coastal or marine site you represent?
The capital city of Peru is Lima. It lies on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. From my window I can see the ocean, and the sunset behind the islands. Living on the coast of Peru has lead to my close relationship with the sea. It feels like home for me when I walk on the beach and take photos for hours while I feel the cool ocean wind touch my skin. In the Paracas region, I admire its spectacular shoreline with rocks, desert features, ancient cultures, and the rich marine life around the Ballestas islands. Watching the sea lions, dolphins, penguins and the variety of shore birds made me realise how important it is to protect this rich coastal life of Peru. It made me curious to learn more about the sea and ways to protect it – this is one of the reasons why I decided to go to India where at present I am working as a volunteer in marine turtle conservation, on the coasts of Kundapur.
What are the specific problems and threats of your natural coastal or marine site?
The Peruvian coastal regions form the most productive marine ecosystem of the world. This is due to the cold upwellings with waters rich in minerals, from the ocean ground. Paracas National Reserve was established to protect these rich marine habitats and rare animals which live in the area; species like the Humboldt penguins or the sea lions, which are endangered and need protection. Climate change has a drastic impact on the desert-like region of Paracas and its waters, especially on the fish economy. The ‘normal’ periodic variation in productivity due to “El Niño” phenomena makes the Paracas coastal ecosystems very vulnerable. Now, ocean warming could lead to the problem that the Humboldt Current, which supports the extraordinary marine life, changes because of higher surface temperatures. This could threaten entire populations with collapse.
But the drastic decline of fishes is also a result of overexploitation. It causes a huge threat to the entire marine ecosystem. A lot of fish species have been decreasing over decades because of overfishing. This decline of fish resources and other species affects not only tourism but also the lives of local fishermen and people who depend of the coastal life. So, in my view, climate change and overfishing are the biggest problems and threats that the Peruvian coastal regions are facing.
Why do you think is it important to safeguard your natural coastal or marine site?
Conserving the coastal ecosystem of Paracas is important because hundreds of lives depend on the area; animals and humans. Global warming is one of the main concerns to the coast, since the heating up of the ocean could be a threat to the Humboldt stream. The ecosystem would collapse if the Humboldt Current changes. Fish won’t be able to live without the rich nutrients from the current. With that, the hundreds of marine birds and mammals depending on fish are endangered, since fishes are the basis of the food chain for many marine lives. In the reserve, endangered species like the Humboldt penguins find protection. The Reserve is also a home to hundreds of migratory birds every year.
Tourism is very important for the reserve and the local people. Yearly, a great amount of tourists visit the Ballestas Islands to appreciate the wildlife, particularly the birds, and the Paracas “Candelabro”; a prehistoric geoglyph. The coast has to be protected so it can also be an attractive place for tourists, since the local people depend on the tourism. Local fishermen also depend on the marine life; therefore overfishing has to be prevented, which already has left a deep mark on the coastal life in Peru.