Export-oriented shrimp aquaculture appeared in the coastal landscape of Peru in the late 1970s. Its rapid development has entailed both positive and negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts across the newly emerging shrimp farming territory of the Tumbes river delta. Here we combine ground surveys and interviews with remote sensing analysis of the transformed environment in order to characterize and quantify the nature, origin and scale of the environmental and social impacts caused by the intrusion of aquaculture. Results show that shrimp farming has encroached on several land cover categories and converted 17% of the Peruvian mangrove. We provide an overview of the history and nature of those impacts. Minimum full-time equivalent employment, which occurred during a white-spot epidemic, was attained in 2001 with 439 full-time jobs; employment peaked in 2006, with 2660 full-time jobs. However, considering indirect benefits, remittances and the prevalence of part-time jobs, the population reliant on aquaculture probably exceeds 10,000. A geographical analysis of social networks reveals how shrimp farming draws a sustained influx of population from the Andes and how it modifies the interaction between population and the natural coastal environment. Recent sectorial improvements towards achieving a more sustainable management of the coastal resources are analysed, and additional recommendations predicated on a more integrated approach are provided.
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