Peru Case Study: Big Challenges for Small Islands: Management and Governance of “Lobos de Afuera” Islands in the Peruvian Upwelling Ecosystem

Alonso Del Solar, Eliana Alfaro-Cordova, Tania Mendo, Kelly Ortega-Cisneros, Milena Arias Schreiber, Jorge Grillo-Núñez, Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The management of coastal marine ecosystems requires a multi-sectorial, multidisciplinary approach, where both public and private sectors work together towards the conservation and sustainable use of the ecosystems. In an ideal scenario, the values and interests of all stakeholders should be considered in management strategies aligned with national and international norms and regulations. To this end, the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) could provide a platform for stakeholders to collaborate and achieve common management and conservation goals. In Peru, the “Guano Islands, Isles and Capes National Reserve System” was established in 2009 to conserve the biodiversity of the Northern Humboldt Current System. This MPA consists of 22 islands and isles, 11 capes, and their adjacent sea, divided into 25 polygons that cover 140, 000 ha, representing a big challenge in terms of management. In this chapter, we draw upon the case study of the octopus fishery in the polygon named Lobos de Afuera Islands (ILA) at the northern part of the MPA, to analyse the advances and setbacks, as well as the challenges associated with stakeholders participation, in relation to the accomplishment of the sustainability goals defined for this polygon. We assess institutional and knowledge challenges for ILA and describe how the deficient acknowledgment of users, the ecological knowledge gaps and a complex administrative system, which involves many institutions, have hindered the understanding of the social-ecological system and the islands management and governance desired outcomes. The neglect to acknowledge the octopus fishers as longtime users of ILA, due to the current illegal status of their fishery in northern Peru, and therefore as formal stakeholders in the polygon’s management, decreases the possibility of applying appropriate co-management strategies. However, a group of octopus divers has recently been formalised into a fishers association and aim at being accepted as formal stakeholders of ILA, through ongoing capacity building related to data collection and organisational skills. The problems of the rigid, inefficient, and limited institutional setup at ILA are also opportunities for identifying bottlenecks and blackboxes, from where research priorities towards an integrated management strategy can be outlined. The increased knowledge of this social-ecological system can also be extended to the whole Guano Islands MPA, where additional flexibility and operational capacities will be needed due to the connectivity among many polygons. Potential pathways towards useful ecosystem-based management may include the emergence of transversal government bodies that can respond faster to the MPA’s inner dynamic and to external pressures, allowing for a less bureaucratic and more integrated approach to management. Moreover, MPA authorities could promote signing general and specific agreements with public and private institutions, prioritising lines of research beyond sporadic projects, towards long-term sustainable management in ILA. The lessons and challenges here presented could also serve to improve the design and implementation of future MPAs in Peru to meet its international commitments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChallenges in Tropical Coastal Zone Management
Subtitle of host publicationExperiences and Lessons Learned
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783031178795
ISBN (Print)9783031178788
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Governance
  • Lobos de Afuera Islands
  • MPA
  • Marine conservation
  • Peruvian coast
  • Resource management
  • Small-scale fisheries


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