After weeks of preparing for the First Workshop, we finally traveled north to meet with the fishermen. The plan was to give 5 workshops in 5 different fishing communities from the 21st to the 25th of April. The previous weeks we had pasted posters all over these towns, approached the fishermen unions and made announcements on local radio stations. The workshop was scheduled to last an hour and a half, consisting of 2 parts. First was an exposition to raise awareness, given by Stefany, our Manta Ray Researcher, where she explained the vulnerability of this species. The second part was the introduction to the project itself, explaining what it was about , what we were planning to do and the benefits ecotourism services can provide. Our camp coordinator and fisherman, Wilmer, also shared his experience in Manta Ray Research.
In general, the workshops were a success!, with a few bumps in the road and some anecdotes to tell. At the Workshop in La Cruz we were very unlucky because just before the workshop started, the meeting room lost power! We were a small group, so we managed to do the workshop only with the laptop. The Workshop at Acapulco was the best one. We had the greatest number of participants there and almost all of them were really excited to work with us.
The best moment for us was when we met very skeptical Manta Ray hunters, who didn’t believe we could change their minds about killing Mantas. But when the workshop ended, they came up to us and said “you were right”. That alone made it all worth it.
Among participants, we had fishermen that had helped in previous Manta Ray Research, but also fishermen that continue to hunt Manta Rays. Some of the participants were boat owners, and some of them were part of a crew, but didn’t own a boat. And a lot of them were interested in our project, even the ones that hunt Manta Rays! So we have a lot of variety of people to work with. In total, 50 fishermen participated in the workshops at La Cruz, Zorritos, Acapulco and Los Organos. More than half of them are interested in working with us in the project
We also did a survey before the workshop and one after the workshop, to see how opinions may have changed, and how much they learned about Manta Rays. The results from the surveys were very interesting. Knowledge on Manta Rays increased by more than 115%. And the interest in Manta Rays increased by 30%, although there was already a high interest even before we gave the workshop (70% showed some kind of interest before the workshop).
We are already planning the next workshops for mid-June, which include training on Ecotourism and Management of Tourism Services. We are inviting experts on the subjects to give the training. Stay tuned to learn how it goes!