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September 01, 2011

WiLDCOAST Builds a Chapter Network on the Baja California Peninsula.

By Sofia Gómez Vallarta

Last month, I traveled along a remote Pacific coastline of the Baja California Peninsula to begin building a network of WiLDCOAST chapters with some of the most conservation-minded fishermen in Mexico. 

For the past several years we have supported community-based conservation projects in this region and have built close ties with organized groups of fishermen and eco-tourist service providers who help to conserve the local natural and cultural resources on which their livelihoods depend.

Fishing communities such as Bahia Asuncion and Punta Abreojos are located in the Vizaino Biosphere Reserve, north of Laguna San Ignacio. The two communities have profited from their high-value commercial fish species such as lobster and abalone. These local fishermen do such a great job of managing their fisheries that the Marine Stewardship Council certifies their lobster as sustainable.

“Our fisheries have increased because we take care of them,” said Artemio Murillo, a native of Bahía Asunción, and a proud WiLDCOAST Chapter representative. “We have invested a lot of resources in enforcing fishing regulations, such as minimum size rules.”

In Punta Abreojos, Javier Villavicencio, a fishermen and WiLDCOAST Chapter representative, and his wife, Claudia Liera, toured us through one of the area’s nearly undisturbed wildlife hotspots. After driving several miles through rolling sand dunes and desert, we arrived at Estero Coyote, an extension of the Laguna San Ignacio wetland complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The wetland and mangroves there are home to many threatened and endangered birds like the tricolored heron and the Reddish egret and serves as a nursery for aquatic species such as oysters, crabs, halibut and sea bass. It is also a feeding area for Eastern Pacific green sea turtles.

“This incredibly beautiful place is threatened,” said Javier. “The land surrounding the estuary is for sale. We are afraid that some developer may buy it and decide to build a hotel and destroy it. We know how important this place is for fish reproduction and our livelihoods.” 

WiLDCOAST is building this chapter network in Baja to protect places like Estero el Coyote and Laguna San Ignacio and to save the sea turtles and whales that live there. These new WiLDCOAST chapters will help communities defend the coastlines and marine species they depend on for their livelihood.

“We want our children and grandchildren to keep enjoying a good quality of life, by sustainably using our local natural resources,” said Artemio. 

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