Deckhand Manuel on The Rainbow Warrior III rib Great Australian Bight /Michaeela Skovranova/Greenpeace

This week we chat to…Manuel Marinelli, Founder and Director of Project Manaia. Manuel couldn’t find his dream job so set about creating it himself. He also talks about the power of persistence…never give up!

Name: Mag. Manuel Marinelli MSc

Job Title:Director/Founder/Skipper/Marine Biologist

Organisation: Project Manaia

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

Ultimately a holiday when I was 5 years old and saw coral for the first time in my life! The moment the colours and crazy amounts of fish were actually processed in my brain I was head over heels in love. Ever since then I was talking about spending my life underwater (coming from a landlocked country, that’s a big statement)!

  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?

Worked my way through an array of internships, volunteering for interesting projects and of course University was a big part of the process but I think the key was building a good working network of people in the field!

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

Short answer: I didn’t. While it was always my dream job to sail around the world and explore the seas and its inhabitants, turns out nobody wanted to offer that job to me. So I  created it within an NGO framework. Now we offer that job to Volunteers – with the benefit of supporting, engaging and improving other NGOs, water sports centers and ultimately the understanding for our oceans!

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

Boulder Island, Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar, April 2016. Manuel Marinelli of Project Manaia pulls an entangled fishing net out off the coral reef. Even though the net was abandoned, it kept catching fish. Project Manaia researches the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar to help protect this remote island group for future generations and keep it as pristine as it is now. Manaia aims to provide a platform for independent scientists as well as camera teams to get them on the location for documentation and scientific work on Climate change issues, ocean acidification, plastic gyres and others. Photo by Frits Meyst /

Every second we are out on the water: The combination of sailing, diving and working with the local communities is just so rewarding, especially when you can see the initial impact you have on communities around you!

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

Absolutely! In the last years we (at the time a team of two!) managed to create a Marine Protected Area, but also convinced an entire fishing community in Greece to limit their fishing to certain areas, converted entire schools to a (sea) fish-free diet and a lot more! It’s the small steps that add up and we made a lot of those!

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  

Working on the Marine environment can be incredibly depressing and frustrating at times, it will make you angry at people sometimes and makes you want to hide in a cave at other times. Persistence is possibly one of the most important characteristics to have and will keep you going – because the truth is the job has to be done – and NOW too!

  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

You remember the times when in maths you needed to calculate how fast you would have to go to meet a friend in a certain place at a certain time? Never thought anyone could use that – until I  found myself crunching numbers to find out how fast we would have to go/sail in order to intercept an illegal fishing vessel before they entered a port –  certainly didn’t see that coming!

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Hang in there: Things will look desperate at times and you will want to give up at times, things will seem hopeless in many cases but giving up can never be the solution – if not us, who will work towards ocean conservation? And if not now, we will never get a better chance again! So let’s get it done!

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

Hammerheads – simply strangely  gracious creatures, fell  deeply in love first  time I saw them in the wild and never got over them 🙂 Also the way they interact and build social communities, structures and yet remain peaceful in their team

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

Some nights at sea you get to see fluorescent plankton around your boat and the water just lights up. It was a night like that when I saw a big glowing “thing” getting closer to our boat – took me a while before recognising the glowing outlines of a humpback whale swimming alongside us – absolutely amazing sight!


Thank you Manuel, it certainly sounds like an incredible job. If you would like to join Manuel out on the sea then check out their post on our Volunteer/Internship pages 

Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly job alert emails and keep an eye on our Wise Work pages so you don’t miss your dream opportunity in marine conservation.