LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra’s government is planning to create an ocean reserve in the first quarter to protect feeding and breeding grounds for humpback whales and other marine species, the environment minister said on Monday.
The reserve would span more than 400 square miles (1,040 square km) and overlap with four offshore oil blocks, according to a government document on the proposal.
Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz said oil drilling and fishing would still be allowed in the protected area, but that extra care would be taken to ensure they do not threaten marine ecosystems, with resources allocated for government oversight.
“The goal of creating this reserve isn’t to ban economic activity. It’s to create the conditions so that species can reproduce in the time of year they need,” Munoz said in a news conference with foreign media.
Munoz said she expects the proposed reserve to be created via a presidential decree in the first quarter of 2019, after information meetings are held with stakeholders this year.
The proposed area includes feeding and breeding grounds for turtles, humpback whales, seals, seahorses and commercial fish species, according to the document.
The companies that have exploration or drilling rights inside the borders of the proposed reserve include Savia Peru – a joint venture of Ecopetrol and Korea National Oil Corp – BPZ Exploracion & Produccion, Karoon Gas Australia Ltd and China National Petroleum Corporation.
Reporting by Mitra Taj; editing by Jonathan Oatis