On the move: The role of mobility and migration as a coping strategy for resource users after abrupt environmental disturbance – the empirical example of the Coastal El Niño 2017
Individual mobility – moving between and within different geographic regions – represents an adaptation strategy of natural resource users worldwide to cope with sudden and gradual changes in resource abundances. This work traces the recent history of Peruvian small-scale fishers’ migration, and particularly analyses the spatial mobility patterns of resource users along the Peruvian coastline in the aftermath of the coastal El Niño 2017. In February-March 2017, this event caused extraordinary heavy rains and a rise in water temperatures along the coast of northern Peru, inducing negative consequences for the small-scale fisheries and scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) aquaculture sectors, both representing important socio-economic activities in the region. Responses of local resource users to these changes were highly diverse, with a great number of people leaving the region in search for work in fishing and non-fishing activities. With a particular emphasis on the province of Sechura, this work attempts to shed light on how and why migration flows differ for fishers and scallop farmers and to explore future pathways in the context of post-disturbance recovery. About one year after the disturbance event, the small-scale fishery operated almost on a regular scale, while the aquaculture sector still struggled towards pre-El Niño conditions, reflected, for example, in a higher percentage of persons engaging in other economic activities within and outside the region. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of human movement and translocal social networks emerging in moments of crisis and should be considered for future development of long-term management strategies incorporating increasing interconnectedness of places on different scales in the face of future disturbance events. Understanding adaptation strategies of resource users in this particular social-ecological setting will further serve to inform other coastal systems prone to (re-occurring) environmental change by highlighting the diversity of socio-economic and natural drivers that can stipulate mobility and affect adaptive capacity of resource users.