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Foca Island


Conservation benefit: Protection of 24,216 marine acres for 15 years

Community benefit: Construction of ecotourism and interpretive center

Date Approved: 06.2016


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Off the northern part of Peru’s coast, where the warm Tropical Equatorial Current and the cold Humboldt one meet, is an area of unique biodiversity. The ocean teems with fish, mammals, and birds, including South American sea lions, Humboldt penguins, frigatebirds, and Galápagos fur seals. Some of the fish and corals here live nowhere else; researchers are still finding species that are new to science.

Foca (Seal) Island sits squarely in this confluence of currents. Its 200 acres are home to 35 species of birds, some of which (Peruvian pelicans, wedge-tailed storm petrels, and others) breed only on the island. (A spectacular documentary about the island can be found on YouTube.)

Just 800 meters away is the village of La Islilla. Many of its residents make their living fishing with traditional gear from small wooden boats and rafts. However, large vessels from outside the area scoop up fish of all kinds and sizes and throw back whatever they can’t sell. As a result, local fisherman say, the fish are disappearing.

To counter this threat, the community will protect a large marine area. Only local people, using artisanal methods, will be allowed to fish. Local groups have created a plan for monitoring by private and government patrols, especially north of the island, where illegal fishing is concentrated.

Working with the NGO Nature and Culture International, Seacology is funding a visitors center. Several hundred tourists come to La Islilla each month and take the short boat trip to the island, but receive no information about this remarkable environment. The center will offer interpretive materials as well as artwork and crafts made by local women. Local youth, who have few employment opportunities, will be trained to become knowledgeable guides, helping tourists value the environment. The building will also store equipment that is used to monitor the protected area.

Project Updates

May 2018

Seacology made a small additional grant to help the community publicize the interpretive center with posters, murals, and online posts. We made a small grant for these activities, which have now been completed. Signs were erected in Paita City to promote tourism in Isla Foca, and posters were distributed.

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August 2017

Seacology staff and board members and their guests officially dedicated the interpretive center on a recent trip to Peru.

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January 2017

This project has progressed rapidly. The visitors center has already been built, and an opening ceremony is scheduled for this month. A Seacology expedition will visit the project in August.

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November 2016

Construction has begun on the visitors center in La Islilla; the foundation is in place, and the walls are going up.

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August 2016

Our Peru field representative, Enrique Michaud, reports that the final drawings and detailed plans for the visitors center have been drawn up, and preparation of the construction site has already begun. Building should begin soon.

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