Divers

Some divers simply hold their breath while hunting and gathering, while others use surface-supplied compressors to collect oysters and scallops, sea urchins, octopus and to spear a variety of finfish along the rocky shores in relatively shallow water (30 m or less). Their boats or rafts are usually rowed out to the fishing ground, powered by small outboards, by sail, or the fishermen simply dive from shore. The catch is then sold to middlemen back at the home port, where it is transported in refrigerated trucks throughout the country or shipped overseas to markets in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Divers are generally adapted to the changing conditions of the water temperature brought on by ENSO. A moderate ENSO warm event, which warms the sea temperature, actually allows the divers to stay in the water longer without getting cold. As the water gets too warm, however, some species move into deeper waters, which lures the divers to follow them. Diving at deeper depths, combined with warm water that allows one to comfortably remain in the water for longer periods, can lead to an increase in incidence of decompression sickness, i.e., "the bends".

In extreme events such as 1982-1983, the water got so hot (more than 9°C above normal along the northern Peru coast) that many species of shellfish just died, while other species moved to depths outside the range of the divers. As diving equipment improves, and market demands for high-quality shellfish increase, divers will likely continue to push their depths. Unfortunately, training and emergency facilities are not on par with the increase in diving activity. This may be exacerbated, once awareness of an impending strong event occurs, as divers try to squeeze in as much time as possible in the water with the hope of "getting what you can" before the ENSO-related conditions deteriorate.

During warm events, however, some species such as octopus (Octopus spp.) and scallops (Argopecten purpuratus) grow at faster rates, which can permit increased harvesting at sustainable levels. Again, once the temperatures get too warm, however, these species can also perish. The temporary abundance of these commercially valuable species draws people from other occupations and areas of the country to begin diving for these marine resources. Most do not have proper training, which can result in increased diving accidents.

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