A Paradise of Hope: The Tropical Sea of Peru

Latest update January 26, 2019 Started on June 3, 2018

The Tropical Sea of Peru

In the Eastern Pacific, only about 5 degrees south of the equator, where the north flowing Humboldt Current (also known as Peru Current) and the tropical Southern Equatorial Current meet, lays the incredibly rich and highly biodiverse Tropical Sea of Peru.

A haven for marine mammals, feeding ground, and migration route for the pacific megafauna, this area is only partially explored and new species are regularly discovered.

The area is rich in cultural heritage and has numerous fishing villages along the coastline. For decades artisan fishermen have fished sustainably, but now industrial fishing is threatening their livelihood.

The goal of this expedition is to document this area, meet with the fishermen, school kids, officials, and local scientists. After this expedition, we hope to gather more support to declare the area a marine protected area and organise a bigger expedition next year in co-operation with Mission Blue to to help designate the area as a Marine Protected Area.

June 3, 2018
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A belated but necessary video of highlights from our 4 day expedition taken with a Trident Underwater Drone!

In The Field

Day 4 - Isla Foca

Our last day in the field was spent mostly on ground to my relief.

Isla Foca translates to Island of the Seals, and it truly lives up to its name, except in between the seals you can see penguins!!!

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Day 3 - Cabo Blanc

Another early morning start at 6am! The past two days were extremely long and the early mornings were beginning to wear out on the team, but today was our day aboard Ernest Hemingway’s fishing boat, Miss Texas! It was definitely an upgrade from the fishing boats we were diving off of the day before.

First Dive - North Peru, in search of Groupers

The scuba divers were afraid that the current was too strong for the dive that Yuri proposed, so we decided to explore the area using our Trident. It was a success. We were able to see down up to 25 meters. The minute the Kristin saw what was underneath, she instantly wanted to jump in. However, the current was very strong, and Nicole, the ROV pilot was not immune to nausea this time.

2nd dive, 75 meters, bottom floor

Our second dive with the Trident was 75 meters to the sea floor, an area that had never been explored before. Yuri, became more and more comfortable with the drone, and piloted his Trident around the ocean floor.

3rd dive [Trident] with Eddy  

9-12 meters Our third dive aboard the Miss Texas was a rocky reef about 9 -12 meters, different than our coral reef dives.

Eduardo, Nina and Dani stayed behind as they weren’t feeling too well to pilot our Trident aboard the boat,while Dom, Alex, Deni, Kristin, and Rodrigo dove down to explore the rocky reefs.

After our dives, we officially gave Yuri the Trident underwater drone on behalf of Open Explorer, OpenROV, and the SEE Initiative.

To celebrate we had traditional pisco sours at the Black Marlin, famed fisherman are displayed along in framed photographs along the restaurant’s wall holding their trophy Marlin. From there we headed back to Mancoras to grab our gear and drive all the way to Piura - a four hour drive from Mancora. Completely exhausted we finally arrived at Piura around 1am!

Below is a photo that truly captures the excitement and team work of our team!!


Day 2 - Punta Sal

After the successful dive of Day 1, we couldn’t wait to get back in the water. Today, we woke up earlier than Day 1 and travelled to Punta Sal. Community member India and journalist, Miguel, of El Tiempo newspaper joined us to document this hope spot. See post from September 11th for Miguel's amazing follow up article!

Our first boat cancelled last minute, much to Eduardo’s dismay, but Rodrigo of the Chilean Dive Center was able to pull some strings together and get us 2 boats! It wasn’t the easiest maneuvering from one boat to the other, but we made it work.

Manta Rays! On our way to our first dive we were welcomed to the sea by two manta rays! Full of excitement divers Kristin and Denisse jumped into the open ocean in search of the perfect shot!

First Dive Our first dive, was about 15 meters deep. Biologist, Yuri knew the place by heart, and navigated us to the dive spot.

Unfortunately, the current was too strong for the Trident, but we were able to see  the ocean floor.

Second Dive This was our first deep dive with Trident where we reached about 65 meters deep!

Third Dive After about 2 hours of trying to find our second scuba dive spot, we finally found it, and our divers went straight down. Unfortunately the previous deep dive had drained the battery of our Trident but our scuba divers were able to get some great photos around 15meters deep.

Below is a picture of a white sea urchin endemic to this part of Peru! These are taken for scientific taxonomy purposes.

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Day 1 diving

Sorry for the brievety of these posts, we have packed days and down time to go through photos and write posts is sparse, a full write up will follow.

From our firsts day diving at an old oil platform. In the water for 50 years this is a magnet for life. The biggest barnacles I've ever seen!

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Day 1 in the Tropical Seas of North Peru, Los Organos Oil Rig, Punta Boleros

After the team met at Casa Luna in Macoras, Peru the day before, we were ready to dive. We had a delicious Peruvian dinner of Causa, Fish, and Rice the day before and went straight to bed to wake up at 6:30 am to start our journey to Los Organos, Peru.

We arrived at Chilean Dive Center around 7:30am where we were able to rent wet suits, tanks, fins, and all of the things we couldn’t bring ourselves. Dive masters Rodrigo and Fabian were so incredibly accommodating.

We boarded a boat right infant of the dive center where we saw a bunch of sea turtles. This is a popular place for swimming with sea turtles.

First dive - Los Organos Oil Rig

After a quick boat ride, we were off to our first dive off an uncommissioned oil rig. Structures like these oil rigs that have been in the ocean for years, become the homes of much marine life.

The visibility wasn’t the best, but we were able to take a few great pictures and some awesome footage on our Trident. The current was a bit rough, but our Trident was able to follow the divers down to 12 meters, where it swam with a school of angle fish, brittle stars, and octopi.

Our team was extremely thrilled to dive with Trident.

Thanks to the boat team we were able to fly the Trident for about 45 minutes at the oil rig.

Diver and underwater photographer, Alex Rose, remarked that this oil structure hosted an extremely unique marine environment that was a mix of cold water and warm water fish. “It looked like an extremely confused aquarium,” she said.

Second Dive - Punto Becerros

After the excitement of our first dive, we were ready for our second dive. We were so busy having fun, we didn’t even eat lunch.

Our second dive was to the coral reefs of Punta Beceros, where we saw such a diverse group of marine life. The minute we dove with our Trident we were greeted by a school of butterfly fish, damsel fish, scorpion fish, brittle stars, sea fans, etc. Marine biologist, Yuri Hooker brought up a white urchin [latin name] that is endemic to the Tropical Seas of Peru. Among the endemic species of this unique marine environment are amarillo esponga and the hooker coral named after Yuri himself!

The dives were nothing short of successful. However, after 8 hours on the boat we were ready to eat! Nina, had arranged a late lunch/early dinner with the fisherman of El ñuro, an extremely unique town in north Peru that has found a way to support their families and use traditional and sustainable fishing methods. El Nuro is an example of how communities can use tourism to help the local economy, and transition away from commercial fishing, which in turn, conserves the beautiful and diverse marine life of tropical Peru. Insert [fisher man names], explained that although they have been able to take care of their community by including tourist activities like swimming with turtles, their community still suffers from fisherman outside of the community who fish in El Ñuro illegally.

It is our hope that other small communities will follow after El Nuro, to becoming a sustainable fishing community that can preserve its unique wildlife by promoting tourist activities to support the economy.


Travel day

After the busy program yesterday, were off on our way up north.

Let the adventure begin!



We're still in the first day and the second event of this expedition took us to the Peruvian Navy Researcher Vessel EL CARRASCO (BOP-171). Built in 2016, the EL CARRASCO is 95.3m long, weights 5000 tons and can reach a top speed of 16.5 knots. The ship has polar capabilities, can stay more than 50 days at sea and is equipped with the latest oceanographic research laboratories and instruments.

On our tour of the ship we we able to visit the different laboratories, the research deck with an ROV and two 3000m capable AUVs, took us past the bridge and ended with a sample of Antarctic ice-water.

With this ship, Peru implements both research in the Peruvian waters as well as fulfils its International commitments under the Antarctic Treaty.

Images by Kristin Paterakis

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We are on our way!

Most of the group met today for the first big event of this expedition. And it wasn't even in the Tropical Sea of Peru.

Today's even twas at the Congreso de la República in Lima where we had press conference in the room Héroes Defensores de la Democracia del Palacio Legislativo, outlining the importance of the Tropical Sea of Peru for it's biodiversity, cultural, and economic values.

With its designation as a Mission Blue Hope Spot the Tropical Sea of Peru has the recognition it deserves, now with the help of the congressman Marisa Glave and Yonhy Lescano we can hopefully put it under the protection it deserves.

You can find the official press release here: http://www2.congreso.gob.pe/Sicr/Prensa/heraldo.nsf/03NoticiasVer?OpenForm&Db=&View=37d86873071b84d5052582f7005f3b2b&Col=1


This is great! Congrats team!


Artisanal Fishing in the Cabo Blanco area

Fishing is part of the Cabo Blanco area for generations. With traditional methods the fishermen catch fish from their small vessels and it is an important part of the culture.

In July there was a regatta in El Ñuro where the fishermen compete in their small wooden boats where they show their skill in just using the winds, waves, and tides. Besides the grown-ups the kids get involved too. With their parents they build small replicas of the bigger boats and compete with them.

Here some info from Nina:

The Mini Regata of small fishing sail vessels took place with the participation of many children, that together with their parents built miniature artesenal fishing vessels. They value their traditional fishing methods, where they do not use any technology at all, nor fuel, they just connect with the winds and the tides of the sea.

All United in this Great Sailing of the Century that seeks to put in value the Peruvian Fishing Sailboat, promote sustainable fishing with these vessels,, , the development of a responsible and inclusive tourism, and the conservation of biodiversity in this Peruvian tropical sea - CABO BLANCO - A Paradise for HOPE !!

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Todos Unidos por el Mar Tropical Peruano - CABO BLANCO la Gran Regata del Siglo 2018. Sector Público y Privado unen esfuerzos para poner en valor el velero de pesca artesanal peruano, promover una pesca selectiva, un desarrollo turístico inclusivo y sostenible, y la conservación de la biodiversidad en este LUGAR DE ESPERANZA donde las dos corrientes se unen! 💙⛵️🌟🐋🌊🐠🐟

Posted by Nina Pardo on Thursday, July 5, 2018
These fishing vessels are incredible! Very impressive and skilled fishers, both in the art of sailing and fishing - true seafarers.

Meet the team

Denisse Sotomayor

Freelance journalist, underwater photographer, divemaster diver, traveller and collage professor.

She collaborate with the Perú´s major media channels and travel around the world searching for stories about the ocean, science and the natural world.

She spend 3 month at Antarctica with the Peruvian science expedition, dove in pristine oceans looking for sharks at Borneo, Papua and some other protected area.

She did photography and video exhibition at the Lima Metropolitan Museum, Callao and Piura Navy Museum, Congress of the Republic and some international exhibition in California and Indonesia.

Now she is looking for new adventures who let her discover the underwater beauty to promote and educate with media diffusion.


Some good news from Nina who is the area already.
They recently saw Blue Whales in the area!

Also, turtles, whale sharks and humpback whales have been seen.

Stay tuned!

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Meet the team

Yuri Hooker

I am a graduate in fisheries biology, with an MS in Zoology (mention in Ecology and Conservation). Head in charge of the marine biology laboratory of the UPCH (Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia) and curator of the Aquatic Zoology Collection (CZA).

I am dedicated to the investigation of the underwater biodiversity of the Peruvian sea, especially the fish and invertebrates of the tropical north. In research, more than 100 new records have been found for Peru and around 50 new species for science, more than half still to be described.

Professor at the university and regular speaker in multiple scientific events and diffusion of science. Promoter and creator of the first proposal for the establishment of the Marine Protected Area of the Tropical Sea of Peru (sectors Cabo Blanco - El Ñuro, Arrecifes de Punta Sal and Isla Foca).

I am director and producer of environmental documentaries for national TV and digital media, underwater and surface cameraman, beginner pilot of filming drones.


Meet the team

Dominik Fretz

Dominik lives in Sydney, Australia, with a Master of Advanced Studies in Software Engineering and more than a decade of experience in the field, Dominik now works for OpenROV as a software engineer for the software that drives the Trident Underwater Drone.

Besides working with computers, Dominik is an avid scuba diver, SDI dive instructor and underwater photographer.

Through his work in documenting our underwater ecosystem and the engagement in OpenROV, he tries to bring the underwater world closer to the people and raise awareness for the challenges this unique environment faces.

Through live video streams from the ocean right to people's devices he hopes to get a closer connection and understanding.


Meet the team

Alex Rose

Alex Rose holds a B.S. in Biology, a M.S. in Aquatic Biology, and has a wide variety of experience in the biological sciences including but not limited to bioacoustics research, exhibit construction, science writing, teaching, public presentation, and aquatic animal husbandry and breeding.

Alex is also a professional violinist, photographer, Explorers Club Fellow, PADI Divemaster, and lover of all things aquatic.

She is currently the Science Editor and a principle writer for Ocean Geographic Magazine, the Managing Editor for Ocean Geographic Explorers (OGX) and is a free-lance science writer and editor as well. Alex also composes violin pieces for use in ocean themed films and exhibitions.

Her driving goal is to find ways to protect our world’s precious marine habitats through diving, writing, photography, education, and research. She founded Blue Ring at the beginning of 2017 in an effort to create a new method of ocean conservation accessible to and inclusive of everyone who wants to better understand and protect our seas.


Meet the team

Kristin Paterakis

Kristin is a graduate of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment (BA in Environmental Science and Policy & BA in Earth and Ocean Science) and recently completed her MA in Anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver where she spent two years conducting research in Baja California Sur, Mexico, exploring the use of visual ethnography to study the complex relationship between sharks and shark fishers.

She is currently an associate producer for the Emmy award-winning series Changing Seas produced by South Florida PBS in Miami, Florida. Kristin is a PADI and SDI Open Water Scuba Instructor and also is a certified tech and cavern diver.


Meet the team

Daniel Caceres

Daniel is a divemaster, co-founder of a marine collective group in Peru called "Taking Care of the Ocean". He is a youth ambassador for the Peruvian ocean, and executive of Sustainable Oceans Alliance Peru.

His current projects are in marine governance and policy, ecotourism,and conservation communication. He has taken part in various studies to determine marine biodiversity in Peruvian waters.

In 2015 he was the youngest divemaster in the country and in 2016 he was awarded the national Hreljac Medal for his influence in sustainable development in the Peru. In 2017 Daniel obtained an Agent of Change Award from his university, Scientific University of the South. (UCSUR).


Meet the team

Nicole Guintu

My name is Nicole Yumang Guintu. I am the customer support and community manager here at OpenROV.

I've worked here for over a year helping scientists, fishermen, and all ROV lover's with their Tridents around the world.

I grew up in Monterey, California where my love for the ocean began. I am excited to teach others about Trident and inspire others to love and care about the ocean as much as I do.


Meet the team

Nina Pardo

Nina has extensive experience in advocacy, strategic planning, marketing, communications, and public relations in the corporate and environmental sectors.

Her work has focused on help solve international and domestic environmental sustainability issues. She has worked for Conservation International, Peru’s Exports and Tourism Promotion Board (PromPeru), and has consulted for the World Wildlife Fund, The Shark and Sea Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA), the Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation and others.

Nina has successfully advocated for the legal protection of dolphins against human consumption in Peru and campaign for the creation of marine protected areas, such as the Peruvian National Reserve System of Guano Islands and Islets. She also contributed in the designation of the The Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru Hope Spot. She currently works as a Senior Consultant for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Nina is founder and president of H2Oceanos dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of aquatic biodiversity and has been an instrumental player in the recent designation by the Peruvian government of the artisanal fishing sailboats as a National Cultural Heritage. A traditional vessel used by the fishing communities of Cabo Blanco and el Ñuro.

Nina is a passionate environmental advocate, who builds bridges of collaboration between conservationists, local communities, media, and the public and private sectors to achieve common goals.

She studied Business Administration at Pacific University in Lima and received a MBA at American University in Washington, DC.


Meet the team

We are about 2 weeks out from the expedition to Peru! Time to put some names and faces to this expedition.

Let's start with Eduardo, one of the key figures in setting up this expedition. It all really started with a conversion between him and me some months ago.

Eduardo Salcedo

Is a restoration ecologist in Miami, Florida. He studied in Texas A&M and Florida International University.

Early in his career he worked as a ground fisheries observer in Alaska and it at this point when he developed a deep concern for the state of the oceans. He is the president of Follow E.G.S, a marine conservation NGO that is working to help designate The Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru as a Marine Protected Area. Two years ago our organization spearheaded the efforts to designate the area as a Mission Blue Hope Spot.

In partnership with key Peruvian players, a short documentary about the Hope Spot was produced in order to generate awareness about this little known marine jewel. It received Honorary Mention at Blue Ocean Film Festival and rave reviews from the public.

One of the outcomes we hope to achieve with the upcoming expedition to Peru in 2018, is to generate interest in this area and attract attention from international scientific to study the area. We also hope to interest potential donors to help support a much larger and comprehensive expedition to the Hope Spot next year. I enjoy diving, underwater photography, hiking, travelling, exploring and sharing my love for the ocean and nature with the whole world.


This is happing!!

The expedition planning is in full swing. We start the expedition on the 28th of August in Lima where the expedition team will meet. On the following day, we will fly to Talara where we will spend the first few days. Afterwards we will be travelling to Piura where we will spend two more days.

Our team in Peru is already organising meetings with local authorities, schools, and scientists.

Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, some more spectacular footage from the area!

Photos by Yuri Hooker, taken in Punta Sal, El Ñuro, and Isla Foca.

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What a stunning region! Very lovely footage, amazing to see the fishing communities and the wildlife thriving in this region.
Expedition Background

An international, multidisciplinary group of scientists, photographers, film makers, divers, and ROV operators will meet in Lima, Peru, in late August 2018.

The main goals are to highlight the area as a potential site for marine research and future expeditions, and promote collaborations between international and Peruvian scientists. On this trip we will dive in designated spots and will explore different marine communities to obtain a broad view of the biodiversity and uniqueness of the area.

We will explore the Tropical-Cold Transition Zone, an area within the Hope Spot, where warm and cold water currents collide and mix with one of the largest up welling systems in the world. The general area is a largely unexplored tropical sea rich in nutrients, endemic species, and biodiversity.

August-September have some of the most favourable water conditions and offer high probability of spotting the largest number of species in the area including sharks, manta rays, tuna, marlin, Humboldt penguin, whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, and many marine bird species. The Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru Hope Spot is comprised of four distinct areas. On this trip we plan on visiting some of the areas that include, Cabo Blanco, El Ńuro, Punta Sal Reefs, and either Foca Island or Mancora's Bank, which is the farthest point of them.

Currently we plan to meet on August 28 in Lima before flying to northern Peru the following day and stay until the 2nd of September.

Stay tuned for more updates.


images by Yuri Hooker

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Dominik, this is so cool. Would love to hear how you found your collaborators for this project!

Hey Madeleine!
I'll add a post about the people involved and how we got together!

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