PRESERVATION SUBZONES STIPULATED FOR MARINE RECOVERY, RESTORATION
Revised Park Management Plan Declared After Ten-Year Wait
The day after Earth Day, 2019, Mexico’s federal register published a revised Bay of Loreto National Park Management Plan – abrogating the 2002 version and making official the results of an extensive process that began more than 10 years ago, when numerous public hearings and participative processes in and around Loreto developed a community consensus.
Scientists, fishermen, tourist service providers, trained facilitators, conservationists, economists, and several nonprofit organizations and associations came together to conduct research and then create a plan that addressed major challenges — including degraded ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, loss of biomass, illegal fishing, and general disregard for Park rules.
Thousands of hours were spent in capacity and consensus building to design and facilitate a participatory process to review and revise the management program in the most effective and equitable way to help the Park’s natural resources sustain and recover. As Eco-Alianza Executive President Hugo Quintero recalls, “our objective restated after many public hearings was to restore biodiversity and fishing productivity with the management of marine recovery zones within and outside our Marine Protected Area.”
At that time, political realities resulted in little noticeable action once the Plan was submitted to authorities. And in the ensuing 10 years, despite considerable advocacy for the Plan, there still was no apparent progress towards approving it.
In more recent times, the Park’s Citizens’ Advisory Board, which includes representation from every social sector, considered whether to continue advocating for passage of the reviewed and revised Program. After a delay of many years awaiting its declaration, the Board voted to continue advocating for it. Eco-Alianza along with other conservation proponents also continued advocating for passage of the Program. These joint efforts resonated with the newly elected federal government.
In the coming weeks, Eco-Alianza will begin the process of disseminating information about the declared Program by hosting and facilitating workshops and inviting the participation of all sectors in the Loreto community. The purpose of this outreach effort is to increase knowledge and understanding of the new Program. We are seeking to help implement the Program with the understanding and backing of the community as a common vision to support responsible fishery and tourism practices with citizen engagement and involvement in the management of our resources at the marine protected area.
In that vein, the new Program uses subzoning as a technical and dynamic planning tool to order the core and buffer zones in detail, Hugo explains. “Back in 2009 these subzones were determined by community consensus, considering two criteria. The first, an Ecological criterion, considered the different ecosystems present in the Park, emphasizing the degree of conservation, the presence of endemic species and the aggregation areas occupied by species for their reproduction, feeding and/or nesting. The second criterion considered Productivity Use — responding to the needs of the different sectors of the local community that develop activities within the Park, such as fishermen (commercial and sports), service providers, tourists, local visitors and researchers.”
The program now divides the park into 7 different subzones, comprised of 50 polygons for the total of its 510,472 acres. 15 of the polygons protect habitats critical for biodiversity, protect rare ecosystems, or are set aside to sustain genetic health of fish stocks. These subzones total about 15,000 acres, or 3% of the Park’s area.Over the last several months, anticipating approval, Eco-Alianza has been developing GIS-based mapping applications detailing the entire new Park Management Program, and especially the preservation subzones presented therein. Ultimately, these online systems will be openly available and could be instrumental in engaging community members as the Program is implemented.
As Hugo Quintero reminds us, “it is important for all of us to remember what is at stake here – a Marine Protected Area (MPA) of global significance that is both a World Heritage site and a Ramsar site, a National Marine Park and one of our Planet’s most important sanctuaries for Blue Whales, the largest animal ever to live on Planet Earth. Our objective is to strengthen the community’s participation to preserve our ocean’s natural resources and to encourage the responsible, sustainable and profitable use of these resources for generations to come. Eco-Alianza supports traditions and the social justice needs of each fishing sector.”
An English summary version of the revised Plan will be available through Eco-Alianza in the near future. To view the actual declaration of the Program in Spanish, Click here:
COASTKEEPER DATA PROVIDES THE PROOF
Loreto Gains National Recognition for Clean Beaches
In two national articles prior to Semana Santa last month, journalists provided public health information for potential travelers deciding which beach towns to visit during their vacations. Their articles on “The Top 10 Cleanest Beaches in México” both named Loreto as #2, which may have spurred additional vacationers to choose Loreto as their vacation destination. The municipality’s tourist office reported 100% occupancy for Loreto hotels during Semana Santa (http://elmundodigital.mx/reportan-ocupacion-del-100-en-hoteles-de-loreto-durante-semana-santa/ ).
Although the municipality took significant steps in the weeks before Semana Santa to clean litter from beach areas, and publicized that fact, the ratings actually weren’t based on the cleanliness of the beaches themselves, as the headlines claimed. The results were based on sea water testing, as reported to the health regulatory agency, Cofepris.
Eco-Alianza runs its own water testing laboratory and is certified as the Loreto Coastkeeper by the international Waterkeeper Alliance. For more than five years now, sea water from 12 local beaches has been tested by Eco-Alianza technicians throughout the year for biological contaminants like eColi. Test results are shared with the municipal and state governments and other water authorities, and posted on the SwimGuide app for smartphones and on Eco-Alianza’s Facebook page. Recently, sea water near Loreto’s most important clam banks also is being tested to ensure the safety of this valuable resource.
In preparation for Semana Santa, Eco-Alianza also worked with the municipality’s ecology department to provide refuse and recycling containers on the most popular beaches, as well as signs and social media posts encouraging visitors to respect Loreto’s amazing natural resources by leaving only footprints on the beach.
Eco-Alianza Video Celebrates Alliances, Calls for Conservation Support
A stunning eight-minute video, developed over the last several months by a diverse team of Eco-Alianza friends, sets the stage for an information campaign reaching out to greater México and beyond. In the film, produced by our friend Michael Harris of ABC News, Seattle, Washington (a 12-time Emmy-award-winning producer and conservationist), Eco-Alianza’s Executive President Hugo Quintero calls on México’s elected leaders for conservation support not just for the Bay of Loreto National Park, but throughout the Gulf of California.
The film includes captivating nature images donated by two-time Emmy-award-winning cinematographer Johnny Friday, as well as interviews with fishermen, Park employees, Eco-Alianza staff, eco-tourism operators, and Nora Salinas, one of Mexico’s most well-known actresses, who generously donated her time for the effort. Financial support for the video was provided by Scott Serven, owner of Loreto’s La Mision Hotel, who was instrumental in creating the unique filming opportunity and pulling the team together, as well as by the Anthony and Linda Kinninger Fund.
Also featured in the video are images by Richard Jackson, drone cinematography by Michael Maniglia, and music donated by the Portland, Oregon-based group Y La Bamba (“Libre”) and México City-based guitarist/composer Herzon (“Chiquatita”), a frequent visitor to Loreto.
As Hugo Quintero points out, the globally-significant natural treasures of the Bay of Loreto National Park (PNBL), and the entire Gulf of California, are being threatened and degraded before our eyes. The operating budget of PNBL has been cut by more than 50% over the past three years alone. The outreach campaign, including the video, is an effort to bring a positive message to greater México that the time to act is now, before it is too late.
Click here to view the eight-minute video with sub-titles now on Facebook and the one-minute video customized for Instagram in Spanish and English. Please join with us and share with your friends on social media! We need your help to spread the word!
Javier Mercado Scholarship to be Awarded May 20
By Edna Peralta
Each year at this time, Eco-Alianza pauses to remember and honor a dear friend in a special way. Eleven years ago, shortly after its inception, Eco-Alianza was shocked by the sudden death of one of its four founders. The three surviving founders decided to take this opportunity to remember a little and honor Javier Mercado.
“Javier was there for us when we founded Eco-Alianza almost twelve years ago. He was a true friend and wanted to help preserve the future of Loreto, firmly supporting the mission of Eco-Alianza. We loved Javier and we miss his friendship, humor and work ethic, which was an example for all the students he sponsored and guided. Rest in peace, our dear friend.” (Linda Kinninger, co-founder and treasurer of Eco-Alianza, and Tony Kinninger, member of the Eco-Alianza Advisory Board).
In memory of Javier, we established the Javier Mercado Scholarship, which is an ongoing annual scholarship on the Loreto campus of the UABCS to benefit students who have achieved the highest academic excellence. Javier always helped outstanding college students achieve their goals, both financially and intellectually.
The scholarship was instituted in 2010 in memory of Javier Mercado León, who for three years served as a marketing professor on campus, and since that year ten students of the alternative tourism career program of UABCS-Loreto have been supported by scholarship. The first prize was awarded to Nidia Isabel Ramírez Arce, who works at Eco-Alianza as Program Coordinator. The scholarships are part of continuous and growing collaboration between Eco-Alianza and UABCS.
On Monday, May 20, 11 a.m., the Javier Mercado scholarship ceremony will be held at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, Loreto Campus. For the second consecutive year the scholarship will be awarded to students Francisco Alberto Martínez Aguiar and César Eduardo Yañez Valdez, who will support environmental conservation projects in the municipality of Loreto.
VISITING SCIENTIST PRESENTATION
Chocolate Clam Researcher Sheds Light on Clam Conservation Issues
Kara Pellowe, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Maine, continued the Visiting Scientist series with a well-attended bilingual public talk and slide presentation at Eco-Alianza on April 4.
Kara has been studying the chocolate clam fishery in the Bay of Loreto National Park since 2013, and her interdisciplinary research looks at how ecological and social factors interact to affect chocolate clam conservation. Her talk covered the basic biology of the chocolate clam, showed how her scientific studies are aimed at understanding how the clam fishery can be sustained into the future, and explored conservation outlooks for the species and fishery.
Chocolate clams are found from the Baja peninsula, south along the Pacific coast to Peru, but they have particular importance in Loreto, where they not only contribute to the local economy, but also enjoy a rich cultural and culinary tradition. Chocolate clams are also an important source of supplementary food and income for many families in the region, she explained.
Chocolate clams are found buried in sandy-muddy sediment on the ocean floor, at depths of 1-120m. The only part of the clams visible above the surface of the sand are two siphons, often called “ojitos”, which they use to feed and expel waste. These siphons are extremely sensitive and retract into the shell when clams sense potential predators via water movement or temperature changes. Clams bury themselves in the sand using a muscular foot, which is often referred to as “la lengua” because it looks like a tongue.
To understand how the clam fishery can be sustained into the future, Kara undertook a series of complementary studies on both clam biology and fishing activities. These included studies of clam growth, clam abundance and sizes in the Bay of Loreto National Park, the sizes of clams harvested by fishermen, and the effect of different minimum and maximum legal sizes on clam populations. She also studied the fishery, including the various types of people involved in the chocolate clam fishery, and current processes for creating chocolate clam management. She shared the following suggestions to help sustain the chocolate clam fishery, and the value chocolate clams provide to the local community:
1) Cultivate diverse community involvement in management;
2) Consider establishing a maximum legal size (such as 90mm), in addition to the current minimum legal size of 64mm, to maximize the reproductive potential of chocolate clam populations; and
3) Protect and legalize the equitable distribution of traditional fishing rights, and thus reduce community division surrounding the species.
Currently, conservation of the species is hindered by the loss of traditional rights, she said, which has excluded a diversity of voices from management conversations, and created division in the community. Clam fishermen already engage in a host of conservation strategies to help protect the species, and their intimate ecological knowledge, together with the community’s desire to conserve and protect chocolate clams for future generations, are crucial first steps in ensuring a sustainable future for this important species, she concluded.
EARTH DAY TREAT
Humpback Whale Bubble-Net Feeding in Bay of Loreto National Park
This past Earth Day, April 22, to remind everyone of nature’s wonders, we took the opportunity to post an amazing new video clip on our website. It was provided to us by Eco-Alianza friend and Emmy-award-winning cinematographer Johnny Friday.
As you may know, humpback whales have developed an amazing hunting technique that they use around the world, including here in the Bay of Loreto National Park. When they find a “bait ball” of sardines or other small fish, they swim underneath it or around it (sometimes alone and sometimes in coordination with other individuals). As they swim, they release blasts of bubbles, which float to the surface, forming a visual “net” that serves to concentrate their prey into a small area, just as a net would. Then they lunge through the ball of small fish with mouths agape, feasting on their prey.
Johnny Friday’s drone footage captures this process superbly. Enjoy!
Dr. Jon Rebman Rediscovers Two Endemic Plants on Loreto Trip
You may recall Jon Rebman, Ph. D., from his captivating Visiting Scientist presentation in 2017 on the plants of the Baja Peninsula. Serving as Curator of Botany for the San Diego Natural History Museum, Dr. Rebman is perhaps the foremost authority on Baja plants, as well as the author of several books on the subject.
Dr. Rebman was in the Loreto area for a few days last month working under a National Geographic Society grant to rediscover 15 “lost” endemic plants on the peninsula. With the help of a Mexican collaborator, Dr. Reymundo Dominguez Cadena, and many friends, the trip was a big success. Eco-Alianza Advisory Board member Trudi Angell served as a guide and other Eco-Alianza friends served as hosts.
In just a few days, the team discovered two plants, each of which was previously known from only one specimen (the type specimen) more than 50 years ago. Enjoy the photos that Dr. Rebman provided of Salvia malvigolia and Lippia carterae.
Recycling of Tapitas Continues to Benefit Children with Cancer
Once again, Eco-Alianza Volunteer Task Force volunteers rolled up their sleeves earlier this month and boxed up more than 600 pounds of tapitas, or bottle caps. The caps are deposited into an acrylic container in the lobby of Eco-Alianza’s CenCoMA headquarters in downtown Loreto by anyone who wants to take part, and then packaged for shipping.
Because they are made of a different kind of plastic than polyethylene (PET) single-use bottles, the bottle caps need to be removed as part of the bottle recycling process anyway. And because they are dense, they are more suitable for packing and shipping, and actually have a higher value.
The Mexican cargo and delivery company Estafeta donates the shipment of boxes of bottle caps to their recycling destination, and the funds generated are donated to a nonprofit organization that supports children who have cancer, and their families.
Special thanks to Eco-Alianza volunteers Jim Callard and Alois Suter.
DRAMATIC WHALE RESCUE
Federal Workers Rescue Entangled Humpback in National Park
With a seemingly endless barrage of negative environmental stories these days, it is nice to be able to share the news of an incident in which everything went right. Employees of CONANP and PROFEPA on April 14 received numerous reports of a Humpback Whale offshore from Nopoló, trailing a net and at least two styrofoam buoys.
Workers who have had special training in whale disentanglement were on the scene quickly, located the whale, and over the course of two hours, were able to free it from its burden of fishing gear. The whale looked thin and had some wounds on its back caused by the net it had been dragging. The buoys had an identification tag from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s possible that the whale became entangled during its southern migration, or, considering the stormy year this has been in Oregon, it’s possible the net had become a “ghost net” and drifted for some time before entangling the whale.
Disentangling any type of whale from a net is very dangerous work that has resulted in the deaths of many well-meaning people. The fact that the workers had the knowledge and ability to achieve what they did is astounding (and perhaps an indicator that we need to continue doing all we can to support the Park).
“Nature Notes” is a monthly short feature detailing some of the wondrous, seasonal activities taking place around us.
By Tom Haglund
Birds lay eggs. Eggs need a safe place to mature into new birds. Voila! Nests! Nests come in many sizes, shapes, and qualities, but all have the same basic purpose; producing young birds. From the Osprey’s great loosely connected swirl of sticks and trash to the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher’s exquisitely crafted downy cup, nests are keys that insure there will be future generations of the nearly 10,000 species of the natural wonders we call birds.
Hooded Orioles use palm fibers to weave cozy bags that are stitched under the frond of the palm so well that they regularly survive hurricanes. The nest of a Crested Caracara may exceed a meter across, and that of a hummingbird can be so small as to not even accommodate a ping pong ball. Chicks of the former grow into their huge nest, those of the latter force their nest to grow with them. Much of the hummer’s nest is made of spider webs, and that very strong and elastic nesting material stretches to fit its cargo as the chicks quickly grow to adult size.
Many nests are re-used, some by their creators and some by opportunists. The Osprey may use the same nest for its entire breeding life, whereas a Great-horned Owl simply takes over a nest that catches its fancy. The re-use of a nest is labor saving but not without risk from lice, ticks, mites, and other vermin that can take up residence among crowded and messy chicks as they mature.
The replacement nest building species must select new sites, gather new materials, and perform the arduous task of creating a new home for their expected progeny; but it will likely be a healthier place than a recycled one. The species that produce chicks in an old nest save a lot of energy and may begin the exhausting task of rearing young in a little better physical condition than those who rebuild. These trade-offs are obviously both good strategies for the species that use them as they continue to produce travelers on evolution’s long meander.
Spanish names of birds mentioned:
Osprey – Gavilán Pescador
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Perlita Azul Gris
Hooded Oriole – Bolsero Enmascarado
Crested Caracara – Caracara Quebrantahuesos
Great Horned Owl – Buho Cornudo
Xantus’s Hummingbird – Colibrí de Xantus
Save the Date – 12th Anniversary Gala – November 16
This year’s gala will be bigger and better than ever, with a beautiful new venue, the spectacular 5th Floor of Hotel La Mision. Panoramic views of the mountains on one side and the sea on the other will remind all of us exactly what we’re working to protect. Preparations are already underway, with some big surprises in store, so please mark your calendar. Tickets will become available in the Fall, but for information on sponsorships or to discuss donating an item or experience for the benefit auction, please contact Mark_Hufford@yahoo.com .
See you in November!
Next Month in Soundings
Considering there was so much exciting news to report in the May Soundings, we decided to hold two additional stories for the June Soundings. Both articles are about our traveling staff members!
Eco-Alianza’s Executive President Hugo Quintero just returned from a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, where he participated in the first-ever gathering of Waterkeepers from throughout Latin America. The historic conference gave participants a chance to share notes with colleagues from 8 different countries, and to make plans for some amazing collaborations.
Environmental Education Program Coordinator Alma Rico recently returned from a trip to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, where she participated in training workshops dealing with marine litter research and citizen science. Over the next year she will engage Loreto students in the project.