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Marine biologist Kerstin Forsberg, 2016 Rolex Awards Laureate, protects giant manta rays by raising awareness and developing ecotourism.
Marine biologist Kerstin Forsberg, 2016 Rolex Awards Laureate, protects giant manta rays by raising awareness and developing ecotourism.
Image: Supplied/Rolex

The Rolex Perpetual Planet initiative was launched in 2019, with the aim of supporting a vibrant and active network of individuals and organisations using science to understand and preserve Earth’s sensitive ecosystems on land and in the water. 

Marine biologist Kerstin Forsberg, a 2016 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Laureate, is harnessing her passion to educate a new generation of explorers and scientists about the importance of giant manta rays.

Kerstin Forsberg is passionate about sharing her love for giant manta rays with others. This is not only because she has a soft spot for these misunderstood creatures, but also because she realises that it’s only through making sure that communities comprehend the vital role that endemic species of flora and fauna play in the survival of our oceans that we can even begin to try to save them. After all, how can you protect something you don’t understand?

“Giant manta rays, for me, are magical. They’re just majestic,” she says.

These gentle monsters of the sea are critical indicators of the health of an underwater ecosystem, but they are being threatened by hunting and fishing. Their global populations are crashing by between 30% and 80% due to human activity, and they’re in desperate need of help.

Marine biologist Kerstin Forsberg and her team from Planeta Oceano collect plankton for analysis to assist with the conservation of giant manta rays.
Marine biologist Kerstin Forsberg and her team from Planeta Oceano collect plankton for analysis to assist with the conservation of giant manta rays.
Image: Supplied/Rolex

From her research base in Peru, Forsberg is helping to breathe life into the Peruvian ecotourism industry through a campaign of manta ray awareness. Villagers are beginning to understand that tourists frequent this part of South America because of its rich biodiversity, and that conserving this valuable asset is important.

Forsberg’s youth awareness campaigns have now been seeded all over the world, and there is a surge of interest in protecting ocean life that’s gaining momentum year after year.

Everybody can make a difference, starting from a two-year-old
Marine biologist Kerstin Forsberg on running youth awareness campaigns to help protect giant manta rays

With the help of these communities, she has changed the narrative and flipped the fate of giant manta rays on its head.

Peru has now totally outlawed the hunting, capture or sale of giant manta rays, thanks in large part to Forsberg’s initiative and the involvement of local stakeholders.

“For me, sharing knowledge and working together is key. We need to be working together,” she says.

Navigate to Rolex.org to discover more and to watch the documentary 'Perpetual Planet, Heroes of the Oceans', supported by Rolex. #PerpetualPlanet #RolexAwards

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