El Nuro: Combining comunity-base tourism with biological research

El Nuro: Combining comunity-base tourism with biological research

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

To create a community-base tourism whose tours involve collecting scientific data for biodiversity conservation. The profits will benefit the community by direct income and by creating a fund for community needs. The initial tours offered will be conducting sea turtles population assessments in a foraging area.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The community of El Nuro depends entirely on fishing. This situation makes their livelihoods highly vulnerable due to the current threats to marine ecosystems, climate change, urban development, and population growth. This problem is exacerbated with a deficient infrastructure and sanitary problems (like lack of sewage system). Tourism will help diversifying their economic activities creating new income sources. On the other hand, sea turtles are highly endangered in the Eastern Pacific and the collection of scientific data and conservation of foraging grounds will inform management and improve population demographics. Moreover, if the project is successful it could be replicated in other fishing villages along the Peruvian coast.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In my 10 years of experience with sea turtles and marine conservation I haven’t seen a tourism company managed by a local community that involves collecting data in foraging areas. In Peru, some tourism involves profits for local communities but it is mostly in the Amazonia. However, given the rich biodiversity of our ocean I think this is an excellent niche to do tourism business that combine research, conservation and environmental awareness. I would start with sea turtle foraging grounds in northern Peru. In El Nuro, turtles are encountered near the coast and the community does not have a harvest culture, turtles are not afraid of people, making possible an interaction with them. Previous experiences show that tourists are very interested in having close contact with sea turtles in an environment different that nesting beaches. Moreover, there is a possibility to evolve from only conducting scientific tours focused on sea turtles to include the vast diversity of species found in the surrounding area and to include other activities/trainings like snorkeling, scuba or kayaking. If part of the fishing community could combine fishing with scientific tourism and obtain economic benefits, these activities will largely contribute to conserve their coastal areas and their livelihoods. The strategic geographic position of El Nuro, few minutes from the two largest touristic towns in northern Peru (Organos and Mancora) and exclusive beach residences (Punta Sal) makes it a great starting point to implement this tourism business. Also, the tours will be conducted in collaboration with ecOceanica to properly collect all the scientific data.
About You
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Section 1: About You
First Name


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, LI

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Phone


Organization Address

Copernico 179, San Borja, Lima

Organization Country

, LI

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, PI

Website URL
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

The project has not been open to tourist yet.


Previously we have conducted in-water assessments of sea turtle aggregations in El Nuro. These activities were a success in terms of the biological information collected as well as the direct participation of some fishermen. Moreover, the local community demonstrated interest in getting involved in these activities.
Now, we are in conversations with two local tour operators that are based in a city close to El Nuro to plan the possibility that they sell the scientific tours through theirs companies. These tours would be then operated by the El Nuro community.
Next month we will be visiting the area for a second research session but this time we will bring education material and offer public talks to inform in detail about our work and the possibilities in the area.
At the moment we are looking for funding to start developing a business plan with the community and to seek a market. The funds from Geoturismo Challenge will help with this part of the project.


We expect to help the economic and social development of the community of El Nuro by conducting sustainable research tourism managed by the community itself. We hope that the profits will improve the household income of the community as well as the community in general by creating a communal fund to be used in local needs. The results will be available to scientists, fishermen, local people managers and policy makers, and might help support new science-based and community-based conservation, management measures and business possibilities for El Nuro people. During our next in-water survey we expect to have set the basis for a close collaboration with the fishermen union based on the research and business possibilities.
From the in-water assessment we have and we will continue to obtain valuable demographic parameters and other scientific data to improve the conservation and recovery of the threatened populations of sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean. Currently, we are working on making public our results in the upcoming Sea Turtle Symposium 2011.

From the in-water assessment we have and we will continue to obtain valuable demographic parameters and other scientific data to imp

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Y1. We have established business collaboration between local operators and the El Nuro community. Now, both operators have brochures selling the packages for scientific tourism. We have a working agreement with the El Nuro community and have established working responsibilities.
We have continued our research activities in the area and have offered training workshops to have the first group of El Nuro scientific guides. They have developed skills in basic scientific techniques including sea turtle handling, understanding of scientific jargon and are able to explain it to a general public, they know the basic biology of sea turtles and their conservation, and, very important, have developed skills to manage tourists groups.
We have sold our first tourist package and have completed the tour. We have identified the weaknesses, the problems and we are ready to work on them before the next tour starts.
Y2. We have strengthened our collaboration with the local operators. They continue advertising and selling the packages. Now there is a web page exclusively designed for the El Nuro community operator that advertise the area and sell the tour packages. We are now collecting information about the revenues, how the market behaves and how to improve business. We are developing ideas for new tours that involve other marine species. We continue offering workshops for the guides depending on the needs they themselves identify (e.g. more technical information, tourist guide skills). The data we are collecting on sea turtles shows that the tourism is sustainable and have a positive effect in the marine ecosystem.
Y3. We have several well structured tour packages. Now we know what is and what is not possible to offer to the tourist. Our guides are well trained and have accumulated experience in the past two year. We have at least 3 tours packages sold per week during the peak of the season and to packages for months during the low season. We have identified what the tourist wants and the possibilities for diversifying activities in the area and we are moving towards developing them. The community is using the profits to address local needs.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

1) Tourits are not interested in any king of scientific-type experience. This would make the project a complete failure.
2) If the community is not able to stay organized and resolved any problem that arise, the project won’t be able to keep running. We need a solid communal organization that can ensure the viability of the project.
3) The El Nuro community is simply not interested in an alternate source of income that doesn’t include the harvest of marine resources

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?

, PI

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

If yes, provide organization name.
How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

We have a partnership with the tour operator Pacifico Adventures which is based in Los Organos, very close to El Nuro. This tour operator is a great example of research and tourism because their main activity, whalewatching, is generating scientific data for humpback whales in the north of Peru.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1. We need to seek advice from a specialist in the business sector who will have to develop a market study and business plan for the project. We have identified a potential specialist already but have not started conversations. We will make a first approach with the idea for her opinion and advice.
2. We need to have constantly meetings with the community to plan the tourism project and coordinate all activities. The fishermen association and local authorities will have an important role in the decision making of the project. We seek good communication and an excellent working relationship with them. Some of the meetings will have to involve tour operators from close by towns to design the tour packages that can be offered.
3. We need to conduct an experiment research tour with real tourists. So far only fishermen an biologists have been involved in the research activities with sea turtles. Therefore, we need to conduct an experimental tour to see if the tour can be a success. After the experimental tour we will ask the participants to fill in a questionnaire about the experience to obtain feedback that can help improve the tour design.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

When we saw that the in-water surveys of sea turtles were a success and that the local community was interested in participating in the research activities it was clear to us that a combination of both activities: research + local income needed to be created. Besides, El Nuro fishermen are locally known for not harvesting sea turtles. In this light, the easy access to sea turtles combined with the community attitude towards these species and the need for income create a perfect scenario for a community based tourism based on scientific research.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Shaleyla Kelez is a Peruvian biologist. She received her B.S. in 2000 from the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (Lima). Currently she is a Ph.D. candidate at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She is also a founder of the Peruvian non-profit ecOceanica. From 1999 to 2005, Kelez worked in several Non Governmental Agencies conducting research on sea turtles and by-catch. She worked mainly in Peru but also in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. In Peru, Kelez also did research on penguins and marine protected areas. Her professional interest is extending scientific understanding of how ecosystems function, particularly the marine ecosystem. Kelez wants to see economic activities like fisheries to sustainably develop while ensuring the preservation of species like sea turtles. Kelez is a member of the UICN Sea Turtles Specialist Group and the International Sea Turtle Society.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?

Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

Yes, we have experience managing co-financed projects. Currently ecOceanica’s staff is managing a grant from Padi Foundation and another one from Oak Foundation managed by Duke Center for Marine Conservation. In the past staff members had managed grants from Rufford Foundation and from the Convention on Migratory Species.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below

What problem-area does your project address?

Access to knowledge and training, Access to financing.

How will your project address this problem?

We want to diversify the economic activities in El Nuro, based on fishing, by attracting some of the thousands of tourist that yearly visit the area beaches. Tourist come to spend time on the beach, to enjoy nature, making a need for nature-related activities that can be sold as part of a vacation package. In El Nuro there is an unique aggregation of sea turtles that are easy to observe. Moreover, in-water surveys had proven it successful. In this light, there is an opportunity for El Nuro community to attract tourist interested in sea turtles. However, sea turtles won’t be the only attraction . Marine turtles in general are a keystone for the conservation of the whole marine ecosystem as a whole. In the future we expect to develop tours that involved other organisms.
A key issue of the tours is that they will generate scientific information. ecOceanica will partner with the community to bring scientific methods and build capacity for the proper collection of data. This data will be available to scientists, fishermen, local people, managers and policy makers, and might be used to support new science-based and community-based conservation and management measures for El Nuro.
In this way, the project will bring access to economic resources and knowledge and training for the community of El Nuro.
A key issue of the tours is that they will generate scientific information. ecOceanica will partner with the community to bring scientific methods and build capacity for the proper collection of data. This data will be used to inform management and improve marine conservation.
In this way, the project will bring access to economic resources and knowledge and training for the community of El Nuro.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

The principal beneficiaries are the local community. We envision that the income form the activity could be divided in 2 parts:
1) The fishermen in charge of conducting the tour will obtain direct income for his work day, gasoline and boat use.
2) Part of the income generated will go to a communal fund. This fund will be used to solve local needs of the community as a whole.
3) Close by tour-operators will also benefit monetarily when they book tours lead by El Nuro fishermen.
3) Involving local people in the research and gathering their collaboration and viewpoints, can help ensure the acceptance and effectiveness of conservation strategies such as for marine turtles.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?
A. Total Budget (100%)


B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)


C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)


D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)