Empowering artisanal fishermen in manta ray ecotourism

Planeta Océano
Published: 24 August 2015
Last edited: 09 November 2021
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The Giant manta ray is a vulnerable species exposed to unmanaged fisheries in Peru. To promote protection of mantas, local fishermen are empowered through manta ray ecotourism. Activities include workshops, financial and technical support, and promotion of ecotourism services. This is achieving awareness and appreciation for manta conservation, while promoting alternative incomes for local communities.


South America
Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Local actors
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Other theme
Conservation of threatened species
Loss of Biodiversity
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction


Tumbes Region, Peru


In Peru, one of the world’s most significant Giant manta ray (Manta birostris) populations is not protected from unmanaged and unmonitored fisheries for local fishmeat. Many harvested individuals are pregnant females, suggesting that this region is an important reproduction area. Because of this species’ slow reproductive rates, these populations are unable to withstand continued fishery pressure.


  • Artisanal fishermen
  • Tourism agencies and operators
  • Local authorities
  • Eco-tourists

How do the building blocks interact?

Introductory workshops for artisanal fishermen allowed a wider fishermen audience to become aware of manta ray conservation status and the project. These were an important first step to later engage fishermen in capacity building and coordination meetings, which serve as a platform to strengthen ecotourism capacity and effectively identify committed fishermen. Once committed leaders are selected, financial and technical support (e.g. providing infrastructure and personalized mentoring) can have significant impact. Offering infrastructure support in the form of zero-interest micro-loans reassures commitment from beneficiaries, and allows for more fishermen to benefit from the program upon loan repayment. Upon acquiring required infrastructure, promotion within the local community, governmental and corporate sectors, helps showcase services. Initial ecotourism trips can then be conducted, together with the project team, and finally by fishermen on their own.


Awareness and appreciation for manta ray conservation is increasing in northern Peru. Knowledge on Manta Rays increased in fishermen participants and environmental leadership was promoted by engaging 10 fishermen in ecotourism.

Ecotourism boat trips provide vital information on the occurrence of Manta Rays in northern Peru (e.g. population size, critical habitats), generating necessary information to guide conservation measures. After the first year of implementation, we’ve calculated fishermen could receive an annual income of US$20,000 from these services, which will increase as their services consolidate. The creation of further commercial activities arising from this project (e.g. restaurants, etc.) will also benefit low-income fishing communities. On the contrary, research by our team and partners has shown that artisanal fishermen earn an average of only US$0.33 per kilo of manta meat.


Wilmer Purizaca is an artisanal fisherman from northern Peru. In 2007, he became a volunteer for Planeta Océano. With a sharp eye to identify Giant Mantas in the wild, he began reporting manta observations to our team and soon became the organization’s field coordinator. It was in part, thanks to him, that we all learned about the challenges this species faced in Tumbes: pregnant and juveniles were often captured, greatly jeopardizing this vulnerable population in the region. As part of this project, Wilmer set out to identify fishermen interested in participating in manta ray ecotourism. As a fishermen himself, he knew how fishermen could become champions for conservation. That is how he met Mr. Periche, Mr. More, and engaged his own father, Mr. Purizaca, to pioneer manta ray ecotourism and conservation in Tumbes. The fishermen received project training, and Wilmer visited them frequently to follow-up on infrastructure development and continuously discuss manta ray conservation. One day, the fishermen and Wilmer took people on a breathtaking experience to observe the mantas: huge mantas jumping out of the water, mantas swimming all around, in one case over a dozen of them. People jumped into the water, took pictures, and the mantas curiously swam around. The fishermen were thrilled to see such excitement from the visitors. After all their training and hard work to implement their services, they could now witness the value of live mantas in person. The joy each tourist felt was enough to prove how this threatened species could provide a greater benefit if conserved alive. That day, Wilmer went back home proud. He had helped start an innovative model for sustainable development. Periche, More, and Purizaca, later shared their experience with other community members, inspiring a multiplier-effect for manta conservation.

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Kerstin Forsberg Planeta Océano

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Planeta Océano