Peruvian fishermen protest agreement with Repsol on oil spill

Fishermen are dissatisfied with the agreement signed between the national government and the Repsol company on an initial compensation of 3,000 soles to affected fishermen and fish merchants. They say that they lose more than 5,000 soles a month due to the disastrous oil spill

March 08, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Clean up operation under way in the coastal territories affected by the oil spill in the Ventanilla sea on January 20. Photo: Peruvian President’s Office /Twitter

Dozens of Peruvian artisanal fishermen, affected by the disastrous oil spill in the Ventanilla sea by Spanish transnational company Repsol on January 15, demonstrated outside the Spanish Embassy in San Isidro on March 7. Wearing fishing overalls, aprons, carrying fishing nets, snare drums, placards and Peruvian flags, the protesters expressed their rejection of the agreement signed between the national government and Repsol on March 4 on compensation to fishermen.

According to the agreement, Repsol promised to pay 3,000 soles (800 USD) as an advance payment of compensation, the final amount of which will be determined later, to fishermen and fish merchants who have lost income because of the ecological disaster. The fishermen’s unions considered the amount insufficient, and said that their economic losses exceed 5,000 soles (1,333 USD) per month. They requested that the Spanish ambassador speak with Repsol to fulfill its commitment to fully compensate them for the damage to the beaches, the sea, the fauna, and the flora that will prevent them from earning a living for a long time due to pollution.

“We are losing 5,000 soles a month because we fish according to the season and we can earn more with cheetah, sole and croaker,” explained Roberto Espinoza, representative of the Bahía Blanca National Association for the Defense and Comprehensive Development of Artisanal Fishermen of Peru, to RPP Noticias. “We want the ambassador [of Spain] to be a bridge so that he can speak with Repsol, so that it does not break the agreements signed on January 15,” Espinoza added.

Repsol agreement

Last Friday, President Pedro Castillo’s government signed an agreement with the Repsol company on assistance and economic compensation in favor of over 5,000 registered fishermen and fish merchants, affected by the spill of 11,000 barrels of crude oil in the Ventanilla Sea, which spread to coastal districts of Ancón, Santa Rosa, Aucallama and Chancay.

According to the agreement, Repsol’s La Pampilla refinery will have to pay up to 3,000 soles per person as an advance payment of compensation within a maximum period of seven days from the signing of the agreement.

The beneficiaries must meet a series of conditions, such as having been affected by the spill, being included in the ‘Unique Register,’ and not having received an advance payment of the compensation prior to the signing of the agreements.

Prime Minister Aníbal Torres, who chaired the meeting, stressed that while the cleaning work in the coastal and marine regions affected by the oil spill must continue, it is also essential to guarantee attention to affected people.

Rejection of the agreement

In addition to the Bahía Blanca National Association for the Defense and Comprehensive Development of Artisanal Fishermen of Peru, the Fishermen’s Union of the Port of Chancay, one of the most affected areas by the spill, also rejected the agreement.

On March 4, Zenón Gallegos, the secretary of the union, said that his organization disagrees with some aspects of the agreement, such as the one that constitutes possible exclusions of various fishermen. Gallegos also emphasized that the amount of compensation must be established taking into account that the recovery of the fishing industry will take approximately 10 years. He also stressed that the government must oblige the Spanish transnational company to clean ​​oil sediments from the bottom of the sea.

The Ventanilla Fishermen’s Union, the Confederation of Artisanal Fishermen of Chancay River, among others, also rejected the agreement and called for a true compensation and remediation.

In the face of complaints from fishermen’s unions, PM Torres stressed that the agreement was preliminary and if the total compensation was not defined in the next 30 days, Repsol would continue to pay 3,000 soles every month until it is established.