Peru has a wide, underdeveloped coastline and seemingly endless expansion of fishing fleets. Hundreds of miles of this coastline bear nothing but battered sandstone rock and vast sandy beaches, punctuated by developing communities sustained predominantly by artisanal fishing activity. Tourism in this region is underdeveloped and the number of recreational dive outlets populating this 750 km cross-border stretch of coastline is small. Data on mantas from this region is sparse.
Oceanic manta rays occur in northern Peru; frequently sighted they are occasionally caught as bycatch by artisanal fishermen. In 2015, Peru declared manta rays nationally protected, following media pressure after the capture of an oceanic manta and ongoing work by our local project and collaborators. However, many communities are still unaware of this legislation, why it was established, what it means and how they can adapt activities to continue their livelihood, whilst reducing their impact on these protected species. There is also a lack of knowledge on manta movement and aggregation areas.
The Peru Manta Ray Project works closely with fishing communities to build an accurate picture of the spatial and temporal distribution of the population of oceanic mantas frequenting Peruvian waters. We also work to support the effective implementation of the protective manta legislation declared in 2015. Extensive efforts have been made to support the transition of communities away from fishing through building capacities around manta and marine wildlife tourism in northern Peru. Participatory workshops, training and community meetings with fishermen have been conducted to build skills, capacities, and the necessary infrastructure for conducting tourism excursions. Community outreach included educational activities in schools and participatory research by university students.
Devil Rays in Peru
Peru is one of the top five devil ray-fishing nations in the world. They are targeted primarily for domestic consumption, with most fishing activity occurring in the northern region bordering Ecuador. Unlike the oceanic mantas, there is currently no national regulation of the devil ray fisheries in Peru. Data is collected regularly by government officials and fisheries observers in this area, however, the accuracy and quality of data is often poor, primarily owing to a lack of training, and the challenge of correctly identifying the genus to species level. Thus this project also aims to build capacities among fisheries observers and government representatives to more accurately quantify and monitor the scale of the nation's devil ray fisheries.