By the 1990s, decades of overfishing the waters of the Sea of Cortez had left the coral reef of Cabo Pulmo, in the East Cape region of the Baja California peninsula, void of life. To reverse the process, local citizens convinced the Mexican federal government to establish a marine protected area in Cabo Pulmo in 1995. Today, the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park is one of the most successful examples of marine conservation in Mexico. Fishing was banned inside the park and local residents along with the Mexican government, helped to bring reef life back from near extinction. According to Dr. Octavio Aburto from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, coral reefs such as the one found in Cabo Pulmo are very fragile ecosystems and they are nurseries essential to populating the oceans. Cabo Pulmo is estimated to be 20,000 years old, and is home to 226 fish species.
Unfortunately, development pressures along the East Cape now threaten the very success that has made Cabo Pulmo world famous for its fragile beauty and abundance and diversity of its marine species.
A Spanish company named Hansa Urbana plans to build a mega-tourism complex, called Cabo Cortes, on a 9,875-acre tract adjacent to the 17,560-acre marine park. If the development goes through, the sleepy village of Cabo Pulmo will be joined by 40,000 new residents in a complex that will include hotels, condominiums, two golf courses, shopping centers and a marina for 490 boats. According to several scientists, including Dr. Aburto, the reef would not survive the impact of such development.
Enrique Castro, whose family has lived for five generations in Cabo Pulmo said, "Fifteen years ago we stopped fishing and started taking care of the reef. Today we offer tourist services such as diving, snorkeling, boat rides, sport fishing (outside of the park), and lodging. And now they are going to kill the reef and what about us? Tourists will not come to see a dead and empty reef." The proposed development will permanently alter the health, sustainability and quality of life of Cabo Pulmo.
To conserve the reef at Cabo Pulmo, WiLDCOAST is working with Cabo Pulmo Vivo, a coalition of local residents, non-profit organizations, and researchers, to raise public awareness about the threat to the reef and to stop the mega-development from being built. The effort to conserve Cabo Pulmo’s coral reef is designed to reinforce the amazing efforts by local residents to protect their backyard aquatic wonderland.
WiLDCOAST is happy to announce that on June 15th, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon canceled the building permits for the mega-development Cabo Cortes, that was planed for the East Cape of Baja California Sur.
The project would have brought more than 200,000 new residents to the edge of Cabo Pulmo National Park, a reserve that is considered to be the world’s most robust marine conservation area.
“We are so happy that President Calderon applied the law and canceled this very destructive and speculative project,” said Serge Dedina WiLDCOAST’s Executive Director. ” This is a very important environmental victory for everyone: WiLDCOAST, the community of Cabo Pulmo, civil society, Mexico, and the world,”
WiLDCOAST has spent the last two years drawing international attention to the ill-conceived Cabo Cortes project that scientists believed would have damaged the Cabo Coral Reef, the only living reef in the Sea of Cortes.
The announcement was made three days before the start of the G-20 Meeting in Los Cabos, Baja California South, Mexico—a 45-minute drive from Cabo Pulmo.
In 1995, the Mexican government declared the reef a protected area and later upgraded it to marine park status. Local residents, who transformed their economy from fishing to ecotourism, aided the effort and the amount of life on the reef blossomed.
Between 1999 and 2009, Cabo Pulmo saw a 460 percent increase in its total amount of fish—or biomass“Oceanographers such as Dr. Octavio Aburto from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, believed that Cabo Pulmo’s coral reef would not have survived for too long if the development moved forward”, said Fay Crevoshay, Communications Director of WiLDCOAST.
The developers, Hansa Baja Investments, planned to build a 9,400-acre (3,800-hectare) resort, with 18 hotels, condominiums, two golf courses, and a marina for 490 boats
In his statement President Calderon said, "Because of its size, we have to be absolutely certain that it (Cabo Cortes) wouldn't cause irreversible damage, and that absolute certainty simply hasn't been proved.
Our team will continue its effort to work with Mexico’s National Protected Area Commission to conserve the coastline of the Cabo Pulmo Marine Reserve and to secure the entire park buffer zone for conservation.
But for now WiLDCOAST is very grateful to all our supporters supported our successful campaign to conserve Cabo Pulmo.
WiLDCOAST Work Two Years to Stop the Cabo Cortes Development (Since 2010)
WiLDCOST carried out an intensive national and international media campaign to protect the sensitive Cabo Pulmo coral reef by pressuring decision makers to cancel the Cabo Cortes mega-project.
Media outputs included 73 web articles, featuring front page Huffington Post (Green Section) and front page Yahoo Mexico, 13 prime-time national television segments, 24 newspaper articles (in the US, Mexico, and Spain), 9 radio interviews, 6 local TV segments, for a total of 125 media hits. The campaign to protect Cabo Pulmo reached an estimated audience of 200 million.
We organized photo exhibitions in the Federal Senate and Legislative Palace in Mexico City to highlight the importance of the Cabo Pulmo coral reef that led legislators to pass official motions against the construction of Cabo Cortes and pressure Mexico’s environmental protection agency to revoke the project’s permits.
We mobilized key stakeholders in the Los Cabos region to oppose the destruction of the coral reef in Cabo Pulmo by rejecting the Cabo Cortés project.
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