The ocean as a pathway to a better future for Peru and Ecuador

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In the south-east corner of the Pacific Ocean lays an incredible opportunity to shape the pathway for a blue sustainable development.  Here, fertile waters extend from submarine kelp forests in the south of Peru, to the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, where extremely biodiverse waters attract sharks, turtles and many other incredible creatures.

Both countries are living examples of the profound connection between us humans and the marine world from cultural, economic, and livelihood perspectives. For both nations, the ocean offers food, tourism and recreation, renewable energies, transportation, and captures 90% of the heat and one-third of CO2 emissions originating from human activity, while also producing over 50% of the oxygen globally, among many other amazing features.  

Despite this, just like landscapes were until the 20th century, the ocean is often overlooked as needless of management and attention because of its vastness and seemingly endless productivity.

Today, the ocean faces urgent environmental challenges from climate change, pollution, including plastic waste, overfishing, and many others . However, as we increasingly pay attention to what is happening out in the sea, we may still have the opportunity to retain healthy oceans that sustain ecosystems, economic growth, and livelihoods.

To overcome these challenges, we need to understand the marine world better, plan our interaction in an integrated manner. That is, through an Integrated Ocean Management and connecting with its wonders. If we take this opportunity, a Blue Growth, or an “environmentally sustainable economic growth based on the oceans”, can become both an opportunity for economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, as well as a pathway to sustainable development and a better future.

The ocean in Peru & Ecuador

Peru and Ecuador are connected by the cold and nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current, which supports spectacular plankton blooms that feed the globally renowned fisheries sector of Peru and drives the incredible biodiversity of the Galapagos.

Peruvian waters are so rich that they position the country as one of the largest producers globally of squid, anchoveta, and many other fisheries . However, long-term management of these fisheries is a challenge in the face of national and international illegal or unregulated fisheries, and limited resources for developing sustainable artisanal fisheries. At the same time, emerging blue sectors such as aquaculture, tourism, and renewable energies are overlooked, missing the opportunity to realize their full potential to contribute to Peru’s economy.

The situation in Ecuador is similar, including high vulnerability to international fishing fleets, and unvaluable ecosystems that are admired around the globe. Importantly, the waters around Galapagos attract thousands of tourists and present a huge potential for developing the marine tourism industry as a complement to the terrestrial one. Other opportunities for aquaculture and renewable energies have much to offer for the country’s economic recovery and future growth.

The ocean in both countries offers the opportunity for an integrated Blue Economy that sustainably manages existing sectors such as fisheries and marine transport, and promotes the growth of other emerging ones such as tourism , renewable energy, and aquaculture.

Conscious of this incredible potential, the World Bank is working closely with both countries to prepare some of the building blocks that will enable the transition. This includes empowering and building capacities within artisanal fishers to create innovative and sustainable enterprises, and preparing a baseline of the status of the marine resources and blue sectors.

Artisanal fishers are irreplaceable custodians of the ocean, who will be able to identify many of the changes that are silently happening and those to come . Because of this, the World Bank is focusing on the local communities, including women and youth, seeking to improve people’s quality of life and the health of the ocean at the same time. Future projects are expected to further these objectives by working with the governments of both countries

Through these actions, the oceans can become an ally in fighting climate change in alignment with Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and in complying with other international agreements.

In addition, strategic planning will be required to make the most out of the oceans’ potential, including creating areas to safe keep critical ecosystems and secure fish reproduction, ensuring the profitability of the blue sectors in the long term when facing climate change and other challenges.

Beyond planning and public policy, is it is only through the coastal communities and blue sector workers that Peru and Ecuador can enable Blue Growth.

Image: Juan Manuel García / FCD. / World Bank.

Authors

José Rehbein

Consultor del equipo de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Economía Azul

Gabriela Encalada

Environmental Specialist at the World Bank

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