We are combining oceanographic, passive acoustic telemetry, biological, underwater monitoring, fisheries, and economic data to understand the benefits Cabo Pulmo, a marine reserve, brings to adjacent fisheries and local communities. MPAs can protect fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) and this translates into socio-economic benefits to local communities. Our hypothesis is that well-enforced marine reserves can produce direct, market-based benefits to surrounding communities. Well-designed and enforced marine reserves can also help reverse current trends of ecological degradation, create healthy marine ecosystems, and support the economic sustainability of coastal communities through the ecosystem services they provide.
Citizen Science Program
Understanding the interactions between the ecosystem and the biological, economic and social components of a fishery is critical when developing management strategies that promote sustainable fishing. Resource extraction needs to accommodate diverse uses and objectives across multiple scales and sectors. This can be socially and politically challenging due to the number of people involved and their high dependence on coastal and marine resources as food and livelihood resources. We have partnered with fishermen and local communities to generate fisheries, biological, economic and spatial data in order to identify and understand interactions between artisanal fishing activities, target species, protected species and MPAs.
The long-term monitoring program was established in 1998 and serves as a central hub for all research of the Gulf of California Marine Program, and we are building on more than a decade of surveys of nearshore marine ecosystems, like rocky reefs, in the central and southern Gulf of California. Through this monitoring program we are tracking annual changes in the structure, function, and health of marine ecosystems through annual surveys of fishes and invertebrates at numerous island and coastal sites. Monitoring activities also include quantitative surveys and collections of fishes and invertebrates from mangrove estuaries, Sargassum beds, seamounts, and other coastal habitats.
Our fisheries program has gained considerable recognition for the research it has produced through a strong, international and regional network of collaborators from all sectors (government, public, academic, stakeholders). We produce and provide robust, high-quality scientific information related to the Gulf of California’s fisheries, marine reserves, coastal and marine ecosystems, and climate change. At the same time, we build scientific capacity in the region and broadly communicate the results of our research to all sectors and audiences to ensure that sound science is incorporated in management and policy decision processes.
Since 2007, the Gulf of California Marine Program works to define the economic and ecological value of the ecosystem services provided by mangrove ecosystems in the Gulf of California. This program has a holistic focus and uses ecosystem analysis techniques for research planning, data gathering, and interpretation. We have established actions and formulated questions relevant to management problems at the municipality, state, and federal government levels, which revolve around (a) highlighting the importance of different economic activities dependent on the services provided by mangroves; and (b) identifying the consequences of the loss of this ecosystem to local communities.
Led Joshua Stewart, our team is studying the geographic extent, connectivity, and spatial ecology of oceanic manta rays in Bahia de Banderas, with the goal of learning how mantas in this region are related to populations in the Revillagigedo Archipelago. We’re using a combination of satellite tagging, stable isotope analysis and genetics to answer these pressing questions and develop conservation strategies and management plans for this vulnerable species. We’ve partnered with a number of local NGOs, universities and government organizations, as well as local stakeholders, to ensure that the management actions derived from our findings can be quickly implemented with the best interests of all parties involved.
In one of the most fascinating natural events in the Gulf of California, half a million marine birds flock to a single island with a surface measuring less than 1km2 to nest. Since 1979, Dr. Enriqueta Velarde has been travelling to Isla Rasa to monitor these nesting colonies; a monitoring program that has run uninterrupted for over 30 years. The data collected has allowed a better understanding of the biological reproduction, diet, and evolution in longevity of these species. Most importantly, it is an example of the surprising correlation between the sardine fishery’s catch and the birds’ diet, which can predict, months in advance, the success of the fishery.