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Around the globe, many oceans are polluted. But Mexico’s Sea of Cortez may be one exception. Pristine waters [there] help some locals find hope while becoming educated about protecting their environment.
Ramon Castellanos, of Guerro Negro, Baja California, Sur, is the deputy Director of the Vizcaino Biosphere reserve On a ferry crossing, he shared his optimism about the health of the Sea of Cortez.
Castellanos: For the purpose of certification, we have made some analysis of the water qualities through fish. And there's hardly no pollutants in all the Sea of Cortez and throughout the Reserve and the area from the Loreto Bay Reserve too. Its just very clean water, the cleanest water around.
Established in 1988, the Reserve is funded by the Mexican government, Unesco and private foundations. The largest of its kind in Latin America, it covers over 6 million acres of land and water and has 450 kilometers of shoreline on the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean. The staff teaches locals how to manage and conserve fisheries, the gray whale population, land animals and ancient cave paintings.
Castellanos: When we started we were 4 persons, now we are 36. We started with close to $100,000 a year, now we have close to a million. We started with one vehicle, now we have seventeen and one plane and two boats. So, my job is trying to balance the conservation with the development. The tricky part of this is how to tell people not to use something or how to it. So, instead of trying to use the law to change things, what we try to do is provide them with the tools to make conservation a business.
Castellanos explained how Baja fishing cooperatives are protecting their resources with species [population] management.
Castellanos: Just an example, we started with the deep sea scallop, a fishery of 50 tons a year. So, what we do is we regulate the amount, the date they can catch 'em and the size they can catch 'em. And just by doing that, we have increased twenty times the capabilities of the lagoon of producing clams. And the fishermen are earning a lot more money because all what they capture is legal. Illegal capture just stopped, immediately.
Perry Turk-Boyers is the Executive Director of the Inter-cultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans, or CEDO, based in Puerto Penasco, Sonora. For 25 years, her group has worked with the Mexican government and locals, promoting education, conservation, and sustainable use of resources in the Northern Gulf. She reports that fishermen respond positively to collaborating on conservation methods.
Turk-Boyers: CEDO's work, now, is very much focused on trying to integrate community participation and science. Fishermen that use the resources are a wealth of information and by sharing what we know with them and doing the research that is necessary, we all engage in a process of understanding and learning about the natural environment and are protecting their fisheries as well as the bio-diversity of the region.
CEDO also operates an Ocean Camp, for children, where hands on activities [aim to] inspire kids to become good stewards of the ocean and its creatures.
Turk-Boyer: And these young kids learn about how the Gulf of California was formed, through activities there at the CEDO facilities. We take them down to the beach and they build sand castles of all the land forms in the Puerto Penasco area and learn about beach erosion and the coastal processes. And then they visit each of the habitats, the wetlands, some of the rocky shores and the islands, they snorkel with sea lions and so they learn first hand what this ecosystem offers. And Its just a dynamic learning environment for these kids. It’s a life changing experience.
Castellanos teaches children as a way to educate the older fishermen.
Castellanos: We are in all the public schools and all the private schools every month. We're now part of the state program of education. What we're we try to do is to get the children to get to their houses and say, 'hey Dad, stop poaching turtles, that's illegal, they're dying, there are no more turtles.' And when you have that pressure going, the decision makers start making a change, to manage the fisheries and make them sustainable for the future. Once that understanding got to the fishermen, the harvest is every year better and better. Conservation is the future.
For more information about Baja's Vizcaino Bioshpere Reserve, please visit our website at gooddirtradio.org.
I'm Tom Bartels and I'm Tami Graham. Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…for a change.