In early November 2017 we set sail with Baja Expeditions and our partners from Niparaja aboard the Mechudo Catamaran, heading to the San Cosme-Punta Coyote Corridor in the Gulf of California. In this corridor lies a network of 11 fisheries refuge zones, a management tool aimed at the recovery of fisheries resources.
During this six-day expedition, we visited several small fishing villages completely reliant on the health of its fisheries and, as such, are directly influenced by fisheries refuges.
We interviewed six local fishermen from the Corridor, and most agreed that the fisheries refuges zones are beneficial for the fisheries and the community, and that they should continue to exist for years to come. Some of them even expressed an interest in increasing their size for better results. These interests were reflected in the recently approved expansion of San Marcial refuge and establishment of another refuge, La Brecha, near the community of Agua Verde.
While some agreed that the fisheries refuge were great management tools, others thought that the execution of the tool was lacking. A fisher from San Evaristo mentioned that the lack of federal enforcement of the refuges makes it incredibly difficult to regulate fishing activities in the area. He felt that to his family members and community members, his opinions about not following the rules only remain opinions, and don’t have the same effect as a federal enforcer issuing a fine to those doing illegal activity could. Furthermore, the fisher mentioned that they believe if properly enforced, the refuge could recover fishery resources in less than five years—even in two or three years. If the parameters of the fisheries refuges were respected, this fisherman thinks that San Evaristo’s closest refuge zone, Barra de San Diego which hasn’t seen notable increase in fishery stocks, could see fish biomass recovery comparable to that of Cabo Pulmo—or even better.
Additionally, at every community we visited, we screened two short Mares Mexicanos films about the Corridor’s fisheries refuges: Fishing for a Future and The Mystery of the Hawksbill. Our set-up was modest: a 92-inch pop-up screen, a small speaker, a generator-powered projector, and popcorn, of course! Every audience was receptive and thankful, and excited to see their family and friends on a big screen as well as some underwater footage from the perspective of a hawksbill turtle.
In between interviews and movie screenings, we spent time getting to know, and bonding with, community members, a key factor to bridging the divide between researchers and communities. Our team enjoyed conversations, learned how to stitch a fishing net, and even learned how to fish via hook and line when the sardines jumped along the shore!
All in all, our trip to the Corridor was even more insightful than we expected it to be.
Research Associate at SIO. A MAS graduate in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Astrid focuses on generating interest and interdisciplinary support of marine conservation through science communications and collaborative research.
Rachel Labbe Bellas
GCMP Development and Communications Coordinator