Ecotourism or fishing? For Peru, some fish are more valuable alive

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Peruvian artisanal fishermen must take care of what remains in their fishing nets because some species contribute more to the community when they are alive

View of fish in the ocean

According to figures from the Ministry of Production of Peru, in this country, there are currently 76,286 people engaged in artisanal fishing, concentrated in Piura, Ica and Ancash. Before, fishermen did their job and sold whatever came out of their nets, anything with commercial value. Now, many will think it twice before fishing for species such as the stingray, which generate more wealth for the tourists they attract while alive than they would generate when selling their body parts.

Leer en español: ¿Ecoturismo o pesca? Para Perú, algunos peces son más valiosos vivos

With a wingspan of nine meters, it should come as no surprise that the huge rays are often caught in the fishermen's nets at the north coast. Before, fishermen brought out the huge creatures to sell their meat and gills. While the meat is not very desired, gills can become so since they are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The fisherman Edgardo Cruz, 50, interviewed by The Guardian, said that he once caught a stingray of almost a ton and a half, which he took to the coast promptly. It was so heavy that he had to resort to a crane to get it out of his boat, but despite his efforts, he only received the equivalent of about $60 dollars for his meat.

According to an investigation entitled "The Global Economic Impact of Manta Ray Watching Tourism", published in 2013, what fishermen like Edgardo Cruz used to do is no longer efficient.

Ecotourism is lucrative

The study finds that, throughout its 40 years of life, a stingray can generate more than one million dollars in tourism earnings, while dead only reaches values between $40 and $500 dollars.

In light of this fact, the fishing of species such as the ray blanket loses its meaning. In its place arises the possibility of promoting marine ecotourism, aimed at attracting people who wish to see marine species in their natural habitat, and where the gigantic and docile blanket stripe plays a fundamental role.

According to the same study, the direct economic impact of the tourist industry of  stingray's sightings is $140 million dollars annually, while the total expenditure destined to the development of the industry is only of $73 million annually, of which Japan contributes with the 15%. Although these figures belong to 2013, it can be argued that since then they have grown, since ecotourism in general grows at a rate of over 5% per year.

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The study also argues that attracting tourists by spotting stingrays generates economic benefits in other sectors of the local economy. The acquisition of other goods and services by tourists becomes a source of income and additional employment for the coastal communities that house sighting sites.

A case cited there, in Gansbaai, South Africa, a popular site for shark sightings, shows that 50% of the sales of local businesses are to tourists, including gas stations, grocery stores, and agricultural markets.

On the other hand, the industry of stingrays' fishingbarely reaches $5 million dollars per year, being completely eclipsed by tourism. In Indonesia, for example, profits received for the commercialization of the stingray are only $442,000 dollars, less than 3% of what they receive for tourism at the sighting sites.

Fishing will continue to be important

For Peru, and for many of the countries that can take advantage of tourism for spotting stingrays, artisanal fishing is an important sector of the economy. In Peru, fishing represents just over 2% of GDP and 7% of exports, as well as being among the four economic activities that bring the most foreign currency to the country, according to the National Fisheries Society of Peru.

Artisanal fishing is significant in this sector, contributing 22% to fishing GDP and generating 93,000 direct jobs, according to the newspaper Gestión.

In addition, the Ministry of Production also established the considerable importance of fishing for food security in Peru, since 65% of the extracted is intended for direct human consumption. Among the species that contribute to food security are bonito, hake, mackerel, mullet, lorna, and squid.


LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal

Translated from: "¿Ecoturismo o pesca? Para Perú, algunos peces son más valiosos vivos"