Reconnecting with the past and anticipating the future: a review of fisheries-derived cultural ecosystem services in pre-hispanic Peru.
Marine ecosystems play a key role in human wellbeing, particularly in the Global South through small-scale fisheries (SSF). While many have speculated that such activities are central to the provision of cultural benefits (such as cultural identity and heritage values), there are key information gaps regarding SSF cultural contributions to societies and their historical importance. In this paper, we sought to identify and characterize the historical cultural benefits derived from SSF in Peru and their transformative role for early societies' development. We carried out an extensive review of archaeological literature focusing on early coastal Peruvian settlements, cultures and civilizations (i.e. pre-Hispanic period: 13,000 BCE-1532 CE). Our results suggest that the interaction between coastal dwellers and marine ecosystems in Peru is ancient, reciprocal and dynamic. These interactions were crucial for social transformation in Peru across millennia. Through fisheries, the first coastal Peruvians enjoyed multiple cultural benefits that entail a range of experiences, identities and beliefs. These benefits were susceptible to social and environmental changes, while the same benefits allowed early dwellers to gain more capabilities to evolve socially and to shape their environment. Understanding the evolving interaction between environmental spaces and cultural practices may provide valuable insights for improving current and future marine resources and seascape management. Through this paper, we call for a reflection on the past, present and future of SSF, and their valuable role within society. Based on ample evidence we conclude that SSF are not only a food-producing activity, but also a highly important cultural practice for coastal Peruvians.