A brief history of Latin American oceanography: How the collapse of the world’s largest fishery transformed science

Authors: Apollonya Porcelli*, Brown University
Topics: Oceanography, Latin America, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Oceanography, Latin America, STS
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article traces the evolution of Latin American oceanography immediately after the 1973 collapse of the Peruvian small anchovy fishery, the world’s largest marine fishery. In the wake of collapse, experts from around the world focused on the Southwestern Pacific to better understand the phenomenon of El Niño, which initiated the convergence of scientific domains that had historically been isolated—climatology and fisheries biology—and furthered the evolution of oceanography in Latin America. I explain the importance of Peruvian climate organizations and ocean science organizations in forming the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific (CPPS)—a transnational Latin American partnership.

While much of the literature on the state-civil society-science relationship is based on North American and European cases, the Latin American context provides the ideal case materials to better understand how this tripartite relationship is affected by the tensions of a global, industrializing economy. It is well understood that the state and civil society compete over the direction of science. The term, “undone science,” refers to the neglected research, or the “non-knowledge,” that is systematically swept under the rug in an effort to preserve the interests of those in power (Frickel et al. 2010). Paradoxically, after the collapse, the Peruvian military dictatorship opened opened its scientific interests to previously “undone research” (paving the way for the growth of Latin American oceanography) while simultaneously closing its economic borders and nationalizing the fishery. Understanding the conditions under which scientific uncertainty, or systematically “undone science,” becomes “done science” lies at the heart of this analysis.


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