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February 15, 2011

Mexican Wrestler, El Hijo del Santo Asks for the Protection of Cabo Pulmo’s Coral Reef.

Cabo Pulmo is an amazing example of successful conservation efforts in Mexico.
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Cabo Pulmo, the largest coral reef in the Gulf of California and the most northern in Mexican Pacific waters is in perilous danger. A permit awarded to the Spanish development company Hansa Urbana by the Mexican government authorizes by the construction of a mega-tourism complex adjacent to the reef which will include condos, hotels golf courses and marinas.

The reef at Cabo Pulmo is approximately 20,000 years old, making it one of the oldest in the American Pacific. It is home to 226 of the 875 fish species that exist in the Gulf of California.

While snorkeling or diving at Cabo Pulmo, it is very common to see four endangered species of sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, whale, tiger and bull sharks and even humpback and blue whales.

The reef was declared a natural protected area in 1995 by the Mexican authorities and it is now a 17,571 acre national park with an area of, 99% of which is aquatic.

The village of Cabo Pulmo is inhabited by a small community of about 80 residents who look after the site’s natural heritage, and offer tourism services such as diving, water skiing, boating, fishing and camping. However, Hansa Urbana, with approval already granted by Mexican  environmental authorities, wants to develop 9,885 acres adjacent to the community and coral reef.

The development proposal, called "Cabo Cortés", will include hotels, homes, condominiums, marinas, golf courses, shopping centers and an airport for private planes, among other facilities. About 40,000 people would eventually inhabit the coast surrounding Cabo Pulmo.

The Director of Cabo Pulmo National Park, Javier Alejandro Gonzalez, an official of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), explained in an interview with EFE that the agency produced a technical report concluding that the “Cabo Cortés” Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) "was inaccurate in several places" and data "was not validated. "

           

According to Gonzalez, CONANP fears that after starting with the constructions of a marina, where boats and luxurious yachts will dock, it will produce "significant sediment suspension" in the water. The future transit of boats and the large influx of visitors to Cabo Pulmo will “increase pressure” on the reef. 

According to scientists like Dr. Octavio Aburto, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra, the fragile reef would not survive the impacts for more than a year or two. 

A more negative point of view is shared by a group of environmental NGOs, who have formed a coalition to save the reef and stop the development. This coalition called Cabo Pulmo Vivo, is made up of WiLDCOAST, Niparajá, Pronatura Noroeste, Community and Biodiversity, Amigos de Cabo Pulmo, Scripps academics from the U.S. and the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur.

One member, Octavio Aburto, an oceanographer from the Scripps Research Institute, told EFE that Cabo Pulmo supports an ecosystem that replenishes fish populations throughout the Gulf of California.

Fay Crevoshay, communications director at WiLDCOAST comments that the project’s golf courses will need a variety of chemicals that will inevitably drain into the sea and kill the coral.

Enrique Castro, whose family has lived in Cabo Pulmo for five generations, said: "Fifteen years ago we started fishing and taking care of the reef. Today we offer tourist services such as diving, snorkeling, boating, fishing (outside the park boundaries), food and lodging. And now they want to kill the reef, what about us? The tourists will not come to see a dead reef. " 

             

Good news for Cabo Pulmo Vivo.

Last summer, August 30, 2010, SEMARNAT decreed the invalidity of the environmental impact authorization of Cabo Cortés, for purposes of issuing a new resolution. The Cabo Pulmo Vivo coalition insists, however, that Cabo Cortés, just as planned, is impractical and poses a serious threat to the national park.

The coalition’s goal can only be achieved when the environmental impact authorization is fully denied.

El Hijo del Santo fights to defend Cabo Pulmo.

 The legendary lucha libre wrestler El Hijo del Santo, a spokesman for WiLDCOAST since 2007, was present at the opening of the photographic exhibition "Conservation Successes in Mexico” in the Senate on February 14th in Mexico City. El Hijo del Santo has worked selflessly as a defender of the ocean, campaigning against the consumption of sea turtle meat and eggs and educating youth about the importance of protecting the ocean and coast. Now, he is leading the fight to defend Cabo Pulmo, He invites his followers to join the fight and sign a petition at www.cabopulmovivo.org.