Date: 14 June 2023
Author: Nelly De Paz and Elizabeth Gutiérrez Llanos.
Nomination made by: ACOREMA (Áreas Costeras y Recursos Marinos [Coastal Areas and Marine Resources]. Ica, Perú).
Mr Roberto Ochoa Ochoa, from Cerro Azul, a fishing community on the central coast of Peru, has been an artisanal fisherman for more than 20 years. In 2017, because of his interest in learning more, he connected with the non-governmental organization ACOREMA and began collaborating to protect marine fauna.
Roberto Ochoa is the captain of a vessel that fishes surface gillnets from the port of Pucusana en the region of Lima, and is also a crew member of other gillnet boats, locally known as “animaleras¹”, which has allowed him to gain extensive knowledge of this fishery.
This knowledge about fishing gear types and operations has also allowed him to gain a better understanding of the nature of interactions between fisheries and marine turtles, especially the leatherback turtle, known in this fishing community as “Galapagos” turtles. When we met with him he showed enormous curiosity to learn more about marine turtles, since they were regularly caught in his nets. He learned to identify the different species, to record biometric measurements, and begin to take action to minimize impacts of entanglements and to help improve turtles’ survival.
Through his participation in workshops focused on handling and release of sea turtles from fishing gear, Roberto has strengthened his own capacity and knowledge, even becoming an instructor in the SOS Network, which is an initiative supported by private organizations and with funds from the Peruvian government. Through this role, he has trained more than 50 fishermen during their fishing operations from Pucusana and within their community of Cerro Azul. His expertise and experience are well-known, which allowed him to lead a workshop targeting key stakeholders in the northern port of Paita. At present, he continues to share his experiences, observations, and concerns together with his fishermen friends and technical collaborators.
Among his own reports over the past 6 years, Mr Roberto has reported 8 safe releases of leatherback turtles, both in coastal gillnet fisheries as well as open-ocean fisheries. In his community of Cerro Azul, he has become an important resource about sea turtles among his neighbors, informing them, teaching them, and listening to them, maintaining his curious spirit to learn more and become more involved in conservation of these species and other marine fauna in general.
¹Animalera: Gillnet with mesh size greater than or equal to 18”, targeting large pelagics like sharks, rays, and billfish.