The Pacific Ocean is one of Peru’s most valuable resources and has supported its major fishing industry for decades, but in recent years industrial exploitation combined with a general cultural disregard for the sea has left major strains on the ecosystem, threatening its income from fishing and endangering the sustainability and viability of its marine ecosystem. More than 29 million people, over half the population of Peru, live along the coast and depend directly on marine resources in their normal life, ranging from the significant fishing industry to their daily diet. Despite this close proximity with the sea the general population has kept its back to the ocean, focusing more on terra firma than the bountiful yet fragile marine ecosystem. Through Ocean Planet, Kerstin Forsberg is educating these coastal communities to manage their marine environment while also becoming primary players in developing comprehensive collaboration with other organizations, businesses, and governments that operate in the ocean ecosystem. He teaches the community to study and produce the materials they need to create their own tactics in dealing with their environment, helping to enable the citizens themselves to be the guardians of their own marine habitat and benefit from a less polluted and productive ocean.
Conscious of the numerous stakeholders and competing interests involved in the coastal regions, such as communities, private industry, public institutions, and the civil society, Forsberg forges smart networks among the actors. Through meetings, forums, and alliances, he creates consensus and dialogue between the partners that will benefit the interest of each one while also preserving the sustainability of their habitat. Schools and universities especially cooperate with Ocean Planet to promote the environmental curricula in local areas and to also contribute volunteers to the project. Important detail: he is committed to treating each actor as a potential ally, rather than as the enemy: many environmental COs have indeed failed in their efforts by alienating the business sector, a crucial and influential stakeholder in the region. Ultimately, Kerstin has created a model that pursues sustainable and integral development of the coastal region. Currently she is piloting Ocean Planet in Tumbes, a small coastal municipality in northern Peru that is located in one of the five major oceanic biodiversity hotspots in the world. She plans to use this prototype as an example of the positive cooperation that can emerge and then find other communities along the Peruvian coast that would benefit from the integral development model. Eventually, she dreams of an Ocean Planet that can span the entire oceanic hotspot, including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and, why not?, the globe.