Catalyzing sustainable tourism in Panama’s Guna Yala Comarca


This past year will go down in history for the pandemic’s potent impact on people, travel and economies. Tourism, one of the most affected economic sectors due to widely enacted travel restrictions, saw an 87% drop in arrivals globally between January 2020 and 2021. The sector’s income was reduced by 74.1% in countries such as Panama, disproportionately impacting remote sites such as the autonomous indigenous Guna Yala region.

 Tourism is an important source of revenue for Guna communities in the Narganá region, which hosts the country’s healthiest coral reefs, fringing uninhabited islands with paradisiacal white sandy beaches. Youth often find work opportunities as boat assistants or tour guides, fishers sell their catch to local restaurants and tour groups, and women artisans sell their handmade molas and winis as souvenirs to tourists.

The pandemic hit the Guna communities directly through the comparatively high number of COVID-19 cases and limited access to health care, but also due to limited import of goods and the loss of tourism income. Yet, after closing its borders to tourism for over a year, Guna Yala is once again preparing to receive visitors to enjoy its Caribbean beaches and culture. 

While the pandemic has certainly brought many difficulties, the curtailment of tourism has meanwhile provided the region with an opportunity to improve tourism practices and sustainability. Marine tourism has incredible potential as a sustainable economic alternative to extractive activities such as fishing, and can be an important impetus for conserving habitats and biodiversity. However, if not properly managed, tourism activities too can have severe and long-lasting detrimental effects on these already fragile ecosystems, especially when thousands of visitors may visit these sites each month.

Tourists are often unaware of the damage they create standing on or grabbing corals, taking animals (such as sea stars) out of the water for photo opportunities, consuming or buying threatened species, and not properly disposing of their trash. To guide visitors towards mitigating their impacts, local tour guides can become the caretakers of these critical sites by educating and instructing visitors and calling out any destructive behavior. Unfortunately, tour guides themselves are often also unaware of their impacts. 

To better prepare guides for the new arrival of visitors to the Comarca and build the foundation for more sustainable tourism to the islands, our team of Guna biologists and educators, in collaboration with the General Guna Congress, is running a series of tourism training workshops with local tour guides. Arcadio Castillo, MarAlliance’s Community Officer, considers these informal workshops to be “of the utmost importance, since they are a way to transfer knowledge and so that people become aware of and sensitized to protect and conserve the sea and its resources, which offer us their services for free.” Participants in these interactive workshops are taught about basic marine biology, fundamentals of conservation, and best practices for themes important to the Comarca, which include coral reefs and mangroves, marine turtles, lobster and finfish fisheries, invasive lionfish, marine predators, and the proper disposal of solid waste. 

Participants so far have shared that the workshops have been incredibly valuable and suggest expanding them to include other groups of participants: “These workshops should be directed at guides but also boat captains and assistants who take tourists to the sea, since many tourists like to take out sea stars and other organisms from their habitats to take pictures with them, and equally many tourists step on and break the corals when they are snorkeling”, says Karin Valdes, a local guide and workshop participant. 

These workshops are funded through the Mola mask sales that so many supporters of MarAlliance purchased over the past 9 months. Thanks to continued mask sales, we look forward to continuing these activities with local leaders and communities, and adding our ‘grain of sand’ to support the Comarca’s autonomous efforts to strengthen the conservation of their marine resources.

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Asistente de comunicación (Internship)

MarAlliance es una organización internacional sin ánimo de lucro registrada en EE.UU., Belice, Panamá y Cabo Verde, cuyo objetivo es explorar, facilitar e inspirar cambios positivos para la fauna marina amenazada, especialmente tiburones y rayas, sus hábitats críticos y las comunidades humanas dependientes. Nuestra misión es amplia y ambiciosa, y trabajamos en tres idiomas y en siete países de tres regiones. Ante el declive de muchas poblaciones de megafauna marina, estas especies necesitan una voz fuerte, eficaz y con base científica que las represente para ayudar a los socios dependientes a dar forma a las estrategias y acciones de gestión y conservación para invertir el declive.

Resumen del puesto:

Buscamos a un becario (6 meses) proactivo, con conocimientos digitales y excelente capacidad de redacción y edición de textos, que apoye la creación de contenidos escritos de alta calidad y recursos multicanal para difundir el trabajo que MarAlliance realiza a través de sus plataformas en línea (sitio web, redes sociales, boletín, entre otras) y fuera de línea, y que interactúe con nuestro público externo para contribuir a nuestros objetivos generales de comunicación y marketing. El Asistente de Comunicación dependerá directamente del Coordinador de Comunicación y Marketing, y trabajará en estrecha colaboración con el resto del equipo para apoyarles en los elementos de comunicación de su trabajo.

Las funciones y responsabilidades incluirán, entre otras, las siguientes:

  1. Proporcionar apoyo creativo, editorial y operativo a los proyectos. 
  2. Apoyo en la organización, etiquetado y etiquetado del archivo fotográfico y gestión del archivo de vídeo.
  3. Gestión de la comunidad: Gestionar activamente los canales de medios sociales, así como identificar nuevas tendencias y oportunidades de colaboración. Generar reels y visuales.
  4. Apoyo en la redacción de artículos de blog (SEO) y contenido de boletines. 
  5. Ayudar a construir y desarrollar materiales, herramientas y acciones para campañas (online y offline).
  6. Ayudar en diferentes tareas relacionadas con la comunicación trabajando mano a mano con contratistas externos (desarrollador web, diseñador gráfico…) para mejorar el compromiso de las audiencias externas.
  7. Apoyo en la elaboración de informes de campañas y comunicaciones (Google Analytics, métricas de redes sociales, informes de marketing por correo electrónico).
  8. Como parte del Equipo de Comunicación de MarAlliance, apoyar al Coordinador de Comunicación y Marketing en cualquier otro proyecto de comunicación, coherente con las habilidades y experiencia del titular del puesto, en circunstancias no rutinarias.

Experiencia, conocimientos y aptitudes requeridos:

  1. Licenciatura en comunicación, periodismo, marketing o cualquier disciplina relacionada.
  2. Experiencia en comunicación digital o marketing.
  3. Pasión e interés por la naturaleza, la vida marina y la conservación.
  4. Capacidad demostrada para redactar y presentar comunicaciones creativas.
  5. Presencia y conocimientos de medios sociales y digitales.
  6. Capacidad para realizar múltiples tareas y detectar buenas historias.
  7. Capacidad para trabajar a distancia y cumplir los plazos establecidos.
  8. Conocimientos de diseño gráfico deseables, pero no necesarios.
  9. Conocimientos de edición de vídeo deseables pero no necesarios. 

Salario y prestaciones:

Estipendio durante 6 meses.


Español, con fluidez en inglés


Nacionales o residentes de Panamá, Belice, México, Honduras, Guatemala.

Este contrato será a distancia dentro de las zonas horarias de América, flexible, a tiempo completo y desde casa con hasta un 10% de viajes ocasionales locales e internacionales.

Cómo presentar la candidatura:

Por favor, envíe su currículum, portfolio si lo tiene, y carta de presentación a con “MAR-CA_Apellido” en el asunto antes del 21 de marzo, 2024. No se admiten llamadas.

Communications Assistant (Internship)

MarAlliance is an international non-profit registered in the US, Belize, Panama and Cabo Verde that aims to explore, enable and inspire positive changes for threatened marine wildlife – notably sharks and rays – their critical habitats and dependent human communities. Our remit is broad and ambitious, and we work in three languages and across seven countries encompassed by three regions. In the face of declines in many populations of marine megafauna, these species need a strong, effective, and science-based voice to represent them to help dependent partners shape management and conservation strategies and action to reverse declines.

Position summary:

We are seeking for a proactive, digitally savvy Paid Intern (6 month) Communications Assistant with excellent writing and copy editing skills, who will support the creation of high-quality written content and multichannel assets to broadcast the work MarAlliance does through its online (website, social media, newsletter, among others) and offline platforms, and engage with our external audiences to contribute to our overall communications and marketing goals. The Communications Assistant will directly report consistently to the Communications and Marketing Coordinator, and work closely with the rest of the team to support them on the communications elements of their work.

Duties and responsibilities will include but are not limited to:

  1. Provide creative, editorial, and operational project support. 
  2. Support organizing, labeling and tagging the photo archive and video archive management.
  3. Community Management: Actively manage social media channels, as well as identify new trends and collaboration opportunities. Generate reels and visuals.
  4. Support with writing blog articles (SEO) and newsletter content. 
  5. Help build and develop materials, toolkits, and actions for (online and offline) campaigns.
  6. Assist in different communications-related tasks working hand in hand with external contractors (web developer, graphic designer…) to improve the engagement of external audiences.
  7. Support in campaign and communications reporting (Google Analytics, social media metrics, email marketing reports)
  8. As part of the MarAlliance Communications Team, support the Communications and Marketing Coordinator with any other communications projects, consistent with the skills and expertise of the post holder, in non-routine circumstances.

Experience, Knowledge, and Skills Required:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism, marketing or any related discipline.
  2. Experience working in digital communications and or marketing.
  3. Passion and interest for nature, marine life and conservation.
  4. Proven ability to write and deliver creative communications.
  5. Social Media and digital presence and knowledge.
  6. Ability to multitask and spot good stories.
  7. Capable of working remotely and meeting established deadlines.
  8. Graphic design skills are desirable but not required.
  9. Video editing skills are desirable but not required.

Salary and benefits:

Stipend for 6 month.


English, Spanish are mandatory.


Panama, Belize, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala nationals or residents. 

This contract will be remote within the Americas time zones, flexible, full-time and home-based with up to 10% occasional local and international travel.

How to apply:

Please send your resume, portfolio if you have one, and cover letter to with “MAR-CA_Last name” in the subject line by 21st of March, 2024. No calls please.