The 200 nautical miles of Peruvian waters are enormously rich in natural resources, and feature a surprising number of fish, bird and mammal species, due to the fact the Peruvian coastline is influenced by two radically different currents: the cold Humboldt current and the warm El Niño.
The Humboldt current is very cold, as it flows north from the Antarctic (13-14° C in winter and 15-17° C in the summer). The current features the perfect environment for vast quantities of plankton, the main food source for shoals of fish. Thanks to this abundance, Peru is ranked as one of the world's leading fishing nations, with more than 300 fish species, including anchovy, mackerel and scomber.
The Peruvian coast is also dominated by one of the world's driest deserts, despite lying so close to the sea. Its cliffs, islands and beaches are home to a variety of guano birds such as pelicans, albatrosses and boobies whose guano earned Peru untold wealth as fertilizer in the mid-nineteenth century. The coast also features birds such as Humboldt penguins and mammals such as seal lions, in both fine and droll varieties. Further out to sea one can spot dolphins and whales gamboling in the waves.
Off the department of Piura, the Humboldt current peels away from the coast and heads west before mingling with the El Niño current. In these warmer waters one finds larger fish varieties such as cuskeel, tuna, sea bass, marlins, swordfish and sharks, many of which have produced world records in size for fishermen. An area of clear waters, coral and white sand, this part of the Peruvian sea features bird species such as the swallow and crustaceans like shrimps, which are reared in hatcheries for export.
Water temperatures rage from 19°C in winter to 23°C in summer. This quality, combined with water from the Zarumilla and Tumbes Rivers in the Tumbes department, has created a unique and sediment-rich environment wheremangroves thrive. One of the most extraordinary eco-systems on Earth, the mangroves are home to scarcely-studied species such as the anteater and the American alligator.
Both currents have a major influence on Peru's climate. The Humboldt current creates a layer of fog instead of rainclouds, and has turned a tropical climate (due its location near the equator) into a temperate one.
The El Niño, meanwhile, brings on occasional torrential rainfall and is in addition an element that can vary global climate, as every few years it gives rise to the so-called El Niño phenomenon.
The waves off the Peruvian coastline provide further surprises. After having been sailed for centuries by the ancient Peruvians on reed rafts called caballitos de totora, modern adventure-seekers can find huge breakers at Pico Alto, the world's longest-running wave at Chicama or just explore the different beaches that form part of the long Peruvian coast.
Peru's sea refreshes beach-goers in summer, entertains sportsmen and provides food for coastal dwellers, but above all, is a life source that Peru is working to save from the effects of pollution.