School of Biology, University of St Andrews

Tag: fisheries

The Sechura desert and the economic activities of its inhabitants

Sechura is located on the north coast of Peru, in the region of Piura. It has an area of 6311.69 km2 and an average altitude of 15 meters above sea level. It is divided into six districts, which are: Sechura (Capital of the Province), Bellavista de La Unión, Bernal, Cristo Nos Valga, Rinconada de LLicuar and Vice (INEI, 2017).

Fig 1. Sechura Map – Perú

Sechura is the home of the widest area of desert in coastal Peru. Communities that are located on the coast dedicate most of their activity to artisanal fishing in the sea. Despite being an area with a fairly hot climate and with lack of water, there are also communities further inland that develop activities such as agriculture, livestock, continental fishing, beekeeping, among others.

When we started our work on this research project, we were very excited to be able to travel to Sechura and learn about the experiences of local people in relation to their economic activities. However, we received the bad news of the arrival of COVID-19 in Peru and with it, our government imposed certain restrictive regulations that stopped a large part of the activities that we had programmed. Despite this, we adapted to the situation and reconsidered our work plan. At first we were able to analyze information available on the web, reports, theses, etc., which allowed us to better know these communities. Likewise, through telephone calls we were able to interview and make the first contacts with the inhabitants of the desert, thanks to the database provided by the NGO Prisma. Thus, we learned more about the communities that live in the desert and the level of impact that climate change and the El Niño phenomenon had on them. Through these experiences, we were able to identify some populated centers in the districts of Cristo Nos Valga and Bernal, due to their proximity to the “Ñapique”, “Ramón” and “La Niña” lagoons.

A few months later, the restrictions in Peru changed. With great caution and under a strict biosafety protocol, we were able to visit some populated centers in the desert. Among them are the most populated such as “Chutuque” and “Mala Vida” whose population is around 250 to 300 families. Around it there are also other populated centers such as “Nuevo Pozo Oscuro”, “Los Jardines”, “La Algarrobera”, among others. Families in this desert area have many economic deficiencies and basic services. They have limited access to water for family use, electricity is limited (only in some populated centers), and similarly the urban and telecommunications infrastructure is almost non-existant. Despite this, we were able to observe many children who take advantage of the tranquility of the desert to play.

Fig  2. First meeting with residents of Sechura and the team from the La Molina National Agrarian University.

The use of water for agriculture is very limited, therefore agriculture is normally carried out in small areas (<1 hectare) with little technology. The residents eagerly await the rainy season that begins in the summer (January to March); consequently, these rains moisten the soils and are suitable for growing food for a short vegetative period. In addition, these rains increase the water level in the Rivers and some lands may have temporary access to water, which is irrigated with the help of hydraulic pumps. Thus, the inhabitants of these desert communities can plant products in a limited way, such as: corn, sweet potato, various varieties of beans, watermelon, melon, cotton, squash, etc. These will then be harvested and commercialized, however much of it is stored for family consumption during the other seasons of the year.

Fig  3. Some rafts in the desert were used for fishing.
Fig  4. Some nets in the desert were used for fishing

Lately however, we have been visiting some populated centers in Sechura that are located near the channel of the Piura river. We have been interviewing residents of populated centers such as “San Cristo”, “Cerritos”, “Onza de Oro”, and unlike desert settlers, most families have irrigation canals in their agricultural fields. It has allowed them to develop a diversified agriculture such as cotton, rice, varieties of beans, sweet potatoes, fruit trees, squash, watermelon, etc. In addition, they have been able to develop raising animals such as goats, sheep, pigs, chickens in greater abundance than the desert populations.

Fig  5. Villages near to “ Ramon”, “Ñapique” and “La Niña” lagoons

The fishing is an important activity for these inhabitants; however, a large part of the fishermen are fishing in the sea and some take advantage of the Ñapique lagoon and other areas to catch mullet (Mugil cephalus) or tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).

With the presence of extreme events such as “The El Niño phenomenon”, two situations are contrasted, in the desert area this event is seen by the inhabitants as a “blessing” since the abundance of water improves their agriculture, livestock and fishing. However, the residents of the lower zone mention that it has a negative impact on them, in most of their economic activities.

We hope that the information we have been collecting will allow us to better understand this difference and propose ideas so that the local government, private companies and NGOs are interested in contributing knowledge, development plans and technology to improve the quality of life of these families.

Fig  6. Drylands for lack of rain in Ramon Lake.
Fig  7. An afternoon in “Mala Vida” – Sechura

This blog was writed by: Ivan Gomez (1) , Evelyn  Inguil (2),  Maya Gomez-Coultas(3)  and Gabriel Bonnamy (3)
(1),(2), La Molina National Agrarian University – Perú, Lima /  (3) St. Andrews University- -UK, Scotland

New PhD student joins CRMG

Project Title

Understanding the scale, impact and potential mitigation of marine animal entanglement in the Scottish static gear fishery.

Entanglement

Marine animal entanglement in fishing gear is a global concern, considered by many to be the most significant marine mammal welfare issue of our time. In Scottish waters concerns regarding entanglement have been raised by the inshore creel sector, and the available data indicates that the frequency, rate and range of species impacted has been increasing in recent years. Entanglements have conservation, welfare, economic and human safety implications, however a thorough scientific understanding of the issue is data deficient. For example the amount of creel gear being deployed, and the association between fishing effort and the incidence, seasonality, severity or outcome of entanglements is unclear. Recent work has highlighted industry willingness to address this issue, and meaningful engagement with fishers will be essential to this project.

The project will take a transdisciplinary approach to explore theoretical and applied approaches to mitigating entanglement risk, by building on data and methodologies developed through two innovative programmes of research:- the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System project (SIFIDS) and the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA). The main aims of the project are to:

  • Infer the location, intensity and variability of static gear fishing activity including the number of creels and amount of rope being deployed.
  • Conduct a series of surveys to measure Fishers’ perceptions, attitudes and motivations around entanglement, and understand the motives and barriers to fisher engagement with this topic.
  • Develop behaviourally-informed, evidence-based interventions to promote Fishers’ reporting of entanglement events involving cetaceans, elasmobranchs and marine turtles, and support declaration of gear loss locations and quantities.
  • Develop feasible, practical, industry-led data collection and mitigation strategies to reduce entanglement hazards whilst maintaining the economic sustainability of the fishery.

Supervisors

Dr Mark James (University of St Andrews), Dr Dave Comerford (Stirling University), Dr Andrew Brownlow (SRUC), Dr Kirstie Dearing (NatureScot), Dr Simon Northridge (University of St Andrews), Dr Tania Mendo (University of St Andrews), Prof. George Gunn (SRUC).

Funding

This project is funded through the SUPER Doctoral training partnership, in collaboration with St Andrews University, Stirling University, NatureScot and SRUC.  

Contact

Email: em323@st-andrews.ac.uk

Protecting Covid-hit fishing communities in Peru

A project is led by Dr Mark James and Dr Tania Mendo of the School of Biology has been awarded a grant of nearly £300,000 to help protect the livelihoods of fishing communities in Peru hit by Covid-19.

Peru is one of the world’s worst Covid-19 impacted countries. High levels of labour informality drive the need for people to work, undermining disease containment. This is particularly acute in the fishing and seafood supply sector where there are limited economic alternatives.

This new research will help address the urgent need to understand the impacts of Covid-19 on fishing dependent communities and to develop strategies to reactivate the seafood supply chain whilst minimising further Covid-19 infections.

The funding of £297,163 has been awarded from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

The 18-month project will create a survey platform involving data collection, collation, automated analysis and a user-friendly data visualisation interface to provide decision support information to an Inter-Agency Consortium (IAC) led by Regional Government in the Piura region of Peru.

Online survey instruments will be developed and 12 Community Monitors trained to use them remotely to collect data from 12 key fishing communities. The data collected will include: health and welfare, fisheries related production and market information together with other local socio-economic indicators.

Gaps in social welfare, poor infrastructure and living conditions as well as high levels of informal employment exacerbate the impact of this disease in Peru. Artisanal fisheries are an important and overlooked activity which provides employment and basic nutrition for some of the poorest in rural areas. Thousands of jobs in the seafood supply chain are affected by the pandemic.

The project will involve researchers from the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) in the School of Biology and the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia; the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome; the Agrarian National University; Redes Sostenibilidad Pesquera and an Inter-Agency Consortium (which includes representatives of all relevant Regional Government Departments, NGOs, industry and community stakeholders) as well as fishing organisations in Peru.