GC Marine Program
Blog
11.01.2016

Do Hold Your Breath – Notes on the Big Blue Ocean Conservancy Conference

Blog, Conservation, News and Information

While the main focus of the Big Blue World Cup in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, was setting world depth free diving records on Espirtu Santo island (Congratulations Alexey Molchanov for his 129m record-breaking free dive!), ocean conservation was nonetheless given considerable attention. On Wednesday, October 26th, athletes, students, NGO’s, and government officials gathered together for the Ocean Conservancy Conference, which featured speakers from government officials to free-diving superstars. The event was hosted by Estrella Navarro, the Mexican woman’s free diving champion and a local shark conservation-biologist. With the theme “Espiritu Santo es parte de ti / Espiritu Santo is a part of you”, the conference served as a budding awareness campaign to protect the island’s marine life.

Dr. Octavio Aburto with Estrella Navarro, Alejandro Del Mazo Maza, and Alexey Molchanov (left to right).
Dr. Octavio Aburto with Estrella Navarro, Alejandro Del Mazo Maza, and Alexey Molchanov (left to right).

The first presentation was by Commissioner Alejandro Del Mazo Maza from the Natural Protected Areas Commission (CONANP) and he shed light on the nation’s conservation progress: Mexico currently protects over 25 million ha, 12.91% of its territory and encompasses 8% of the Sea of Cortez. Though less than 0.15% of Mexico’s seas are protected, Mexico has an ambitious goal of protecting 10% of Mexico’s oceans by 2020. Del Mazo Maza emphasized that marine conservation is a priority for Mexico, and suggested that the upcoming inauguration of an expansive Biosphere Reserve in the Mesoamerican Reef will be a large step towards accomplishing the 10% goal.

CONANP's Alejandro Del Mazo Maza emphasizing Mexico's commitment to preserve 10% of Mexico's seas.
CONANP’s Alejandro Del Mazo Maza emphasizing Mexico’s commitment to preserve 10% of Mexico’s seas.

Following Del Mazo Maza was the GCMP’s own Dr. Octavio Aburto showcasing the importance and urgency of science communication. Here, he demonstrated how visual media can engage the public in civic and political action for ocean conservation. Through photos and videos, people can be transported underwater and decipher the importance of maintaining the biodiversity of the Mexican Seas.

Dr. Octavio Aburto introducing the different projects of the Gulf of California Marine Program.
Dr. Octavio Aburto introducing the different projects of the Gulf of California Marine Program.

Additional talks included champion free-diver Sebastian Lira, appealing to the necessity of a paradigm shift in our relationships with the environment in the face of climate change; Dr. Citatli Guerra on the difficulties and opportunities in contemporary marine aquaculture in the San Ignacio Lagoon; and CONANP’s Irma Gonzáles on the eradication of invasive goats on Espirtu Santo. With such wide range of topics, the Big Blue conference revealed how one region can host such complexity of conservation issues and players. It also exemplified how government officials, researchers, athletes, students, and more can come together to protect and restore our oceans. We thank Big Blue for having us, and look forward to future events!

 

Author: Astrid Hsu
Research Assistant at SIO. As a recent MAS graduate in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO, Astrid appreciates and realizes the importance of taking interdisciplinary approaches towards marine conservation. Her main focus is generating interest and support behind environmental measures: the particular use of science jargon is generally a turn-off for the general public. To counter this, Astrid disseminates research for the layperson to increase science literacy, promote support for marine conservation, and build relationships with stakeholders.