The geochemistry of cobalt in the Peru upwelling region is dominated by its importance as a micronutrient. A large and previously undocumented flux of labile cobalt behaved as a micronutrient with correlations with major nutrients (nitrate, phosphate; r2 = 0.90, 0.96) until depleted to ≤50 pM of strongly complexed cobalt. Co:P utilization ratios were an order of magnitude higher than in the North Pacific, comparable to utilization rates of zinc in other oceanic regions. Cobalt speciation measurements showed that available cobalt decreased over 4 orders of magnitude in this region, with shifts in phytoplankton assemblages occurring at transitions between labile and nonlabile cobalt. Only small changes in total dissolved nickel were observed, and nickel was present in a labile chemical form throughout the region. In the Peru upwelling region, cobalt uptake was highest at the surface and decreased with depth, suggesting phytoplankton uptake was a more important removal mechanism than co-oxidation with microbial manganese oxidation. These findings show the importance of cobalt as a micronutrient and that cobalt scarcity and speciation may be important in influencing phytoplankton species composition in this economically important environment.