- Excessive small-scale and industrial fishing
- Movement, transport, and storage of heavy cargo, fuel, and chemical products
- Slaughter of seal lions, tortoises, and dolphins by local fishermen
- Limited vigilance and control
- Increase in disorganized tourism
- Waste and garbage
- Illegal settlements by migrants within the reserve
Excessive small-scale and industrial fishing
There are many problems associated with the fishing industry. First, there are many problems associated with fishing practices. Fishermen will catch young fish and will fish in fish nursery areas in addition to keeping fish and shellfish that are smaller than the established size. There are also unpermitted (and therefore illegal) small-scale and industrial fishermen operating within the protected area. Fishermen sometimes catch endangered species, either intentionally and accidentally. The use of dynamite or other banned methods and the use of toxic substances continues. There is overfishing of certain species such as anchovy, sardine, silversides and octopus for commercial purposes. There are also indirect problems associated with fishing. For example, there are unhygienic piers infested with rats and insects. Small-scale fishermen pollute the sea (they leave plastic bags, plastic motor oil bottles, plastic bottles, fuel, nets, rope, buoys, domestic waste, etc.). The industrial plants also pollute the air and water through their waste created during the fish-processing.
The concession system for shellfish farms has not worked properly; there is illegal occupation and overfishing of natural scallops banks. Concessionaires have the obligation to present reports on their activities, but it has turned out that the reported number of shellfish pickers and their banks did not coincide with the quantity of products being sold. This fact showed that the concessions are illegally extracting scallops from natural, protected banks. In the reports, the concessions reported zero mortality rates, which was also highly suspicious. In the end, overfishing of resources on one hand and pollution of the sea in the Bay of Paracas has led to a major downturn in scallops yields.
Movement, transport, and storage of heavy cargo, fuel, and chemical products
In the buffer zone, Graña & Montero terminal consortium operates a docking system with buoys connected to pipelines which lead to its storage tanks to unload hydrocarbons, which are then distributed to its land based plants in various parts of southern Peru. This mobilizes a large number of tanker trucks, that generates heavy traffic and a poses a continual potential danger of fuel spills. The port of San Martín is located in the Bay of Paracas on the northern edge of Paracas National Reserve and has been operating since 1970. Large ships dock at the port, lease the pier, and hire tugs. The port has cargo loading equipment, storage facilities, and scales. The road network that leads to the port is paved and open to public use, and crosses part of Paracas National Reserve. This area experiences heavy traffic of vehicles carrying heavy goods to and from the port of San Martín. Cargo vehicles do not pay any entrance fee to the reserve's administration, despite the impact and potential danger they cause.
San Martín Port Graña and Monteros depot
Around 10 boats dock in the port a month and 150 a year on average. The main export products shipped from this port include fish meal, fish oil, salt, sulfuric acid and minerals such as coal and iron. Imports include mainly agricultural products such as bulk maize, wheat, soybean and fertilizers. Some of the products transported through the reserve are highly toxic, for example acids, fuels and minerals. It is important to stress that the export of sulfuric acid from this port represents a constant threat to the ecological integrity of the reserve. An acid spill would cause intense, widespread, and possibly irreparable damage.
Slauhter of seal lions, tortoises, and dolphins by local fishermen
The slaughter of seal lions, tortoises and dolphin is a perpetual problem within and around Paracas National Reserve. Fishermen working in the stretch of sea within and around the reserve are rarely caught whilst committing this kind of felony, and therefore it is difficult to control and punish. In one case in early 2003, the press reported the savage culling of 147 sea lions on San Gallán Island, an act that marked the worst ecological slaughter ever carried out within the reserve (12). Apparently the poachers clubbed the sea lions to death and cut off their genitals. The motive for the culling was probably to take the animals' testicles and sell them on the black market in Southeast Asia. The reproductive tissue of sea lions is considered a powerful aphrodisiac and is in heavy demand in Asia. The poachers presumably were hired by a network of traffickers working in the illegal sea lion genital trade. There is also demand for sea lion pelts, intestines, liver and meat, which are eaten in certain sectors, and their teeth, which are used to make souvenirs which are popular among tourists.
Tourists mainly visit Paracas to see the sea lions. Thousands of travelers come every year to look at these mammals' habitat. The very existence of the thriving tourist industry depends on the continuing presence of these animals. Thus, attacking sea lions represents not only a inhuman act, it is also an absurd way of doing damage to the country. Police have not managed to identify the men who committed this crime. Although time has passed, the local police have not made a single arrest.
Fishermen also kill sea turtles and dolphins to meet the demand for their meat. Turtle and dolphin meat (known locally as muchame) are exotic products which are extremely expensive on the illegal market. The black market for this meat is larger than originally believed, and these species are caught on request (13). At the same time, during fishing trips, local fishermen kill sea lions and dolphins that draw too near the fishing nets. Fishermen kill them in a bid to prevent them from eating their fish catch and ripping their nets. Penguins are also caught and killed, something which has had a devastating effect on the penguin population, which is on the verge of extinction. Fishing done clandestinely with dynamite is also common in the reserve, affecting sea lions, dolphins and turtles (14).
Limited vigilance and control
Inrena runs around 80 patrols a month in Paracas National Reserve, which is apparently not enough to provide an effective control and vigilance considering the amount of illegal activity that occurs. Access to the reserve is easy and open, as one can enter from any part of the desert or by sea. It has proved impossible to control the boundaries of the reserve. The administration is unable to run effective patrols in most cases because of lack of equipment and logistical issues. For example, the boats they use are limited in the distances they can travel and there are only limited fuel supplies.
Inter-sectorial coordination is limited. Some 30 entities have a say in the running of the reserve, including government entities, private institutions and NGOs. Social responsibility is a vague concept, making it ineffective and inefficient. There are loopholes in the application of the legal framework, and as a result those breaking regulations are treated benevolently. More fishing regulations are needed, and there is a lack of clear definition of concepts. There is a lack of basic information available, and there is no training or education for users of the reserve-yet access to the area's natural resources is easy and open, despite the existing laws that are supposed to deter illegal extraction and occupations. There is not enough institutional presence of in the area, the park guards do not have legal backing. The personnel, logistics, and budget assigned for vigilance and control activities are insufficient (15).
Increase in unregulated tourism
While tourism is a source of income for the administration of the reserve and the local economy, the disorderly presence of tourists in the reserve causes a negative impact on the area. Unregulated tourism is excessively heavy at certain times of year, above all during summer (southern hemisphere summer) and during holidays. People, vehicles, and boats regularly access prohibited areas. This generates more waste on the beaches and at tourist destinations. Many tourists, mainly Peruvians, do not heed regulations regarding litter, and dump their litter directly on the beach.
This excessive tourism also upsets the local fauna. This can be seen particularly near the Ballestas Islands. While birds and sea lions appear to have gotten used to the presence of boats filled with tourists, some tour guides intentionally scare the local birds nesting on the rocks so that tourists can take photographs of them flying.
One of the tourism boats getting too close to nesting birds
Water and land-based sports are also practiced in restricted areas. Vehicles enter unauthorized areas, above all local tourists who drive into the area with four-wheel drive vehicles and all-terrain motorcycles, which can drive through the desert without problems. But this traffic affects nesting areas, permanence and feeding habits of fauna, particularly birds, apart from leaving behind tracks, a visual impact. Many tourists drive into the area through the desert and do not pay the entrance fee.
Paracas Town Hall has a dump truck that picks up garbage from homes in the resort area and the district of El Chaco. Garbage is picked up daily. However, Paracas does not have a garbage dump, and waste is tipped into a hole before being burned, thereby polluting the environment.
There is a great deal of refuse piled up on the beach, especially cans, plastic bags and bottles, which is as harmful to visitors, to the beaches, as it is to the wildlife. This is particularly evident in the Bay of Paracas as well as the area of Lagunillas, and near the settlements of Laguna Grande and Rancherío. In the buffer zone, near the industry, there are large amounts of refuse, both domestic garbage as well as waste left over from shellfish operations (piles of scallop shells), polluting the area and spoiling the view.
Illegal settlements within the reserve
Squatting is a threat because it is an unregulated, illegal use of the land within the reserve. It is also a threat because the domestic waste, sewage pipes, and latrines from these settlements increase pollution on the beaches and in the water. These shantytowns are unhygienic and abound with rats, and flies. Approximately 300 people have settled illegally inside the reserve, mainly fishermen and extractors of other natural resources. They are concentrated in the areas of Laguna Grande, Rancherío, and Lagunillas.
At the same time, in the Santo Domingo area in the Bay of Paracas, wealthy people have built summer houses in an area that is not authorized for construction. These homes have affected the plant life, which had served as a haven and as a food source for migratory bird species. In 1998, the mayor of the district of Paracas granted these people construction licenses. The administration of the reserve filed the corresponding complaints, and when this did not produce concrete results, filed a lawsuit. The administration lost the legal battle, and construction continues to date. This has set a negative precedent for the area, as developers could try to build further constructions in the area.
Settlement in Laguna Grande, Photo: L. Rodríguez
Industrial presence and pollution
There are several sources of pollution. Industry and urban areas pour waste into the sea and into the Pisco River Basin. Waste is poured into the sea without prior treatment. Run-off produced by the fish meal and fish oil industries. There are also oil spills from industrial ships in loading areas. The steelworks dumps water used in its processing, water with a high concentration of heavy metals and toxic residue. There is also dumping of agro-chemical waste, pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture in the Pisco Valley. Substances created by port activity are also dumped into the sea after washing out ship holds. The fish meal and fish oil industries also produce smoke and gasses. The shellfish industry, meanwhile, dumps waste leftover from processing onto the beaches and in areas near the factories. The urban area dumps sewage water and solid waste with a high fecal content directly into the sea. The local small-scale fishing industry also dumps water and waste into the sea (16).
There are a series of fish processing plants (fish meal, canning, and freezing) located in the buffer zone on the east shore of the Bay of Paracas. The "buffer zone" is therefore actually an industrial zone. These industries dump waste from their production processes into the sea, polluting the bay to an alarming degree. This has significantly affected the local wildlife and marine resources in the bay-fishing and shellfish hatcheries have practically disappeared from the area. The beaches, meanwhile, have lost much of their once-pristine condition for tourists and local beach-goers.
To deal with local pressure to control pollution, the industrial consortium APROPISCO has implemented a pipeline system to dump wastewater 12 km out to sea in a bid to bring down pollution indices in the coastal area nearest the bay, where the fishing plants are based. Fishermen and local inhabitants believe the system to be limited, with spillage all along the pipeline and ocean currents which push the waste back to the bay. Today, conditions in the bay in terms of water quality and the ocean floor are critical, pollution is heavy and its effects are evident.
Another source of pollution in the bay is that of fishing boats, both small vessels and trawlers, which dump their grease, fuel, and motor lubricants into the sea, affecting water quality, cutting local productivity, and helping to spoil the bay.
Another type of industrial activity in the area, in this case, within the reserve, is that of salt digs. The salt flats are to be found in Salinas de Otuma and Laguna del Muerto, south of the national reserve, covering an area of approximately 90 ha.
Industrial activity in the area also includes digging for bird guano on the islands, which is extracted for use as fertilizer. Guano is extracted on the Ballestas Islands by Proabonos, the entity in charge of digging for guano all along the Peruvian coast. Digs take place every two to three years, and 200-300 men are hired for the job. There is basic infrastructure and two full-time guards. Problems stem from extracting the guano during the guano birds' nesting season and the illegal catching of fauna as a result of the presence of the guano industry.
- Increased urbananization
- Increased presence of heavy industry in the area
Due to the tough socio-economic conditions in which most of Peru's population live, it is probable that in the medium term there will be more migration to the province of Pisco, especially migrants from the Andes. With more people in the area, there will be more demand for food and services (water, sewage services, education, health, etc.) and therefore more pressure on ecosystems, habitats, and natural resources in the region.
Increased presence of heavy industry in the area
The future construction of a gas fractionation plant by the Camisea project in the buffer zone of Paracas National Reserve will have an impact on environmental and social aspects of the reserve, due to the physical impacts on the natural systems and interference with human activities and systems. Impact will come both during the construction phase as well as the operation phase of the plant. These include the visual impact on the landscape of the national reserve, the generation and increase in noise levels of machinery used for construction and material transport, earth-moving and changes in the topography, air pollution due to the generation of dust during the construction stage and the increase in traffic, an increase in the risk of pollution of surface and underground water by potential spills of chemical products, increasing migration in search of work and opportunities, illegal human settlements, an increase in ocean-going traffic of large ships crossing the stretch of sea within the national reserve.
12 Slaughter in Paracas "Culling of 147 Sea Lions". Article in daily newspaper El Comercio, Lima, January 19, 2003.
13 Depredation of Marine fauna "Denunciations Point to Illegal Dolphin Slaughter Being Done on Demand" Article in daily newspaper El Comercio, Lima, February 11, 2003.
14 Presentation: Marine Coastal Areas and Areas of Management, Problems and Advantages - the Case of Paracas National Reserve. Stefan Austermuhle. II National Forum of Natural Protected Areas. UNALM March 6-7, 2003.
15 Project to Shore up Paracas National Reserve. 1999 Report. Program for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Peru's Wetlands. With backing from the WWF and GEA Peru. Page 223.
16 Op. Cit. Report on Shoring up Paracas National Reserve. Page 223 - 224.