Figure 1 Peru annual small pelagic catch 1950-2000 (includes anchovy, sardine and mackerel). (Sources: 1950-1990: Csirke et al., "La ordenación y planificación pesquera y la reactivación del sector pesquero en el Perú" Rome: Jun 92. 1991-1996: Perú: desembarque de recursos marítimos, según especie 90-96 INEI: Jul 97. 1997-1999: Statistical Reference Book, No. 13: FEO Proceedings from 1999 FEO Annual Conference, Hong Kong, April 8-9, 1999. Paris: Fishmeal Exporters Organization.)
Research Programme (WCRP) under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), whose mandate resulted in national programs of various types around the world. Scientists were setting up an international experiment as part of CUEA, Coastal Upwelling Ecosystems Analysis, off the Peruvian coast when the 1972 El Niño event took place. Interest in forecasting El Niño was seen as socially relevant because forecasting the strength and biological productivity of coastal upwelling processes could be seen as more than an academic exercise (Glantz, 1979). It was suggested that knowledge gained about coastal upwelling and natural factors that inhibit it could be applied to address national economic development issues.
El Niño's impacts on Peruvian fisheries (especially the surface dwelling anchovy) became widely publicized during the 1972-1973 event, which has been blamed, along with overfishing and recruitment failure, for the collapse of that fishery. At that time about one-third of Peru's foreign exchange earnings were derived from the export of anchovy-based fishmeal. There are increasing claims, however, that the rapid decline in catch in 1973 began prior to the ENSO event, and that it was associated with natural fluctuations in abundance of small pelagic stocks. This is based on mounting evidence that anchovy (genus Engraulins) and sardine (genus Sardinops) populations fluctuate on multiyear or decadal scales as well as inter-annual timescales. Furthermore, there are indications of basin-wide synchrony in fluctuations of small pelagics (Bakun, 1996; Kawasaki et al., 1991; Lluch-Belda et al, 1992; Sharp and Csirke, 1983; Sharp and McLain, 1993).
The extraordinary 1982-1983 El Niño was the catalyst to expanding government and scientific interest in developing an El Niño forecast capability. In 1985, WCRP launched the multinational 10-year TOGA (Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere) program that resulted in the recognition of ENSO as a key aspect in the interannual variability of the global climate system. The data collected from this project by researchers from as many as 40 countries aided the development of coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation models. These models are intended to produce routine seasonal to interannual climate forecasts. Despite intensive worldwide coordination and effort invested in the physical understanding of ENSO phenomenon, only recently have researchers begun to address the socioeconomic factors. The rise in scientific understanding eventually translates into policy-making decisions and economic adjustments that have social consequences at all levels of society.
The ENSO event of 1997-1998 further heightened interest in the phenomenon and in the forecasting of it. Thanks to scientific concern and large-scale media coverage, numerous workshops and conferences, and the evolution of global communications technologies such as the Internet, societies around the globe became aware of El Niño and ENSO forecasts.
Peru, in particular, closely monitored ENSO information, and Peruvians generated their own forecasts of how the event would evolve. Peru has been a key member in the Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur (CPPS), which, in response to the 1972-1973 ENSO event, created a group called ERFEN (Estudios Regionales del Fenomeno El Niño). CPPS has committees in each of its member countries— Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Through this organization, national data
from cruises and observational stations are shared, allowing more comprehensive study of this regional phenomenon. In Peru, for example, several institutions, including the government oceanographic agency, the navy, the national meteorological service, the Peruvian Geophysical Institute, civil defense, and the private sector were involved in studies, conferences, and workshops attempting to enhance the understanding and preparation for the impacts of this event.
The Peruvian fishing sector, given its dramatic experiences with past events, was among the first groups to become concerned about the possibility of an extreme event in 1997-1998. Peru co-sponsored, along with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), workshops bringing together international groups of scientists to discuss the matter, and to provide more detail about the event and its possible impacts. These workshops brought to light both the potential gains and difficulties in using forecasts for planning effective mitigative action in the fishing sector.
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