On 6 June, fishermen from the communities of Paita, Sechura and Talara, located in the north-western region of Piura and Tumbes, took to the streets to protest at the concession recently granted by the Peruvian government to British-Irish oil company Tullow Oil. Tullow plans to carry out exploration and exploitation activities to extract oil in the coastal region in Bloc Z-64.

The communities fear that these operations will have negative environmental impacts, not least given critical reports about Tullow’s operations in West and East Africa. Fishermen also fear that oil exploration and exploitation will endanger their fishing activities and thus their livelihoods.

Tullow is a relatively small oil company, but one which has grown in recent years because of its operations in Uganda, Kenya and Ghana. Originally from the Irish Republic, it was registered in London in 2003.

The concession was originally awarded during the presidency of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18), but was later withdrawn at the start of the Vizcarra administration due to concerns about the lack of appropriate and transparent citizen participation in preparation for the project.

According the vice-minister responsible, Eduardo Guevara, these issues have now been resolved, partly through the introduction of a new regulatory framework for citizen participation in the oil sector which has been in place since the beginning of the year.

According to the newspaper Gestión, Perupetro carried out a series of activities with the communities in which better information was provided about the exploration phase and its effects. In an interview with Gestión, Guevara explained that “given the fact that there has been a more transparent process and more information has been provided [to the people] there was a decision to go ahead with the contract”, but, he added “without losing sight of the concerns of the population…”.

Now that Tullow Oil has been given the go-ahead, it now needs to carry out and submit its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for approval. However, it remains to be seen how effective, inclusive, and transparent the process of citizen participation will actually be during the next phase. Community concerns and local knowledge about the possible impact of oil extraction should be integrated into any EIA, along with future investment plans.

The fishermen’s response may not bode well.