Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. believes the natural heritage of Baja California Sur and its surrounding waters are unique and must be preserved in a manner that provides for the well-being of its people. Our mission is to create healthy and vibrant communities by empowering civil society and government to protect and conserve our natural and cultural environment. We envision communities where active citizens believe their quality of life depends on the health and vitality of the environment and act accordingly.
We can achieve these ends through our formal partnerships between Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto, Channel Islands National Park and the University of California Natural Reserve System. These partnerships will further conservation of coastal, marine and island habitats in the park, which are essential for creating sustainable communities.
Our strategy includes four interconnected, core programs:
• Alternative Livelihoods/Business Incubator
• Sister Parks/Sister Cities
• Sustainable Fisheries and Resource Management
• Mining Threat/Watershed Protection Campaign
Learn more about our core programs and our partnership with UC Natural Reserve System, just scroll down or click on links below.
Alternative Livelihoods/Business Incubator
A confluence of circumstances has created an ideal opportunity to advance an innovative and flexible approach to economic development and environmental management. Since well before the national marine park was established in 1996, it’s been clear that the health of Loreto’s marine environment is inextricably tied to the growth of eco-tourism and its conservation ethic, as well as to the management of the fishing and marine foods industry. Simple logic dictates that the less that Loreto families rely on fishing, the more possible a transition will be to a sustainable status for Loreto’s fishery. Accordingly, the more fishing families can rely on alternate sources of income (even part-time), the better.
Amazing alternative tourism experiences abound here:
• Whale watching, birding, botany, fossil and geology walks
• Participating in or visiting monitoring/research projects
• Interpretive hiking, trail visits at the islands
• Archaeology interpretive visits
• Rural photography hiking trail visits
• Community life experience visits
• Artisanal workshops experiences at communities
• Differentiated gastronomic experiences
Tourist surveys indicate that additional marketing of experiential opportunities would have a high potential for success. Eco-Alianza plans to initiate an Alternative Livelihood Development Center on a site adjoining our Community Center for the Environment (CenCoMA). Working in coordination with the municipal tourism department, fishing cooperatives, the local university (UABCS Loreto), and several other partners, the Alternative Livelihood Development Center will work as an “Eco-Incubator” of new and ongoing ventures (Eco-Ventures). It will provide entrepreneurial training and expertise to support the generation of alternatives to traditional small-scale fishing.
Using training protocols built into our adapted model of intervention, we have already begun working with seven social entrepreneurship groups. Four of these groups are fishing cooperatives. With them, we are developing sustainable ecotourism alternatives based on their exclusive special exploitation rights for two marine species under special protection, the sea cucumber (Isostichopus fuscus) and the rock scallop (Spondylus calcifer). With another group, we are seeking to continue the Park’s recently cancelled sea turtle monitoring program as an ecotourism experiential citizen science research project. With the last two groups, we are developing and testing new business models for added value and commercialization of the chocolate clam (Megapitaria squalida), and some other species from small-scale fisheries.
Our Executive President Hugo Quintero, through advanced course work at the Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS) of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, already has been trained to initiate the Eco-Ventures program aimed at sustainable economic development. The Alternative Livelihoods incubator project also will benefit from a follow-on intensive residential course, recently completed in Costa Rica, that will provide ongoing development advice, specific to our project, as well as mentoring by CSIS and UPenn staff.
The Anthony and Linda Kinninger Family Trust already has secured the site for the economic development facility, and site work is underway. Federal economic development funding for this project is a very real possibility, as well as support from the municipality. Anthony and Linda Kinninger are the donors of the property, as well as funding partners.
As part of the project, we are developing the Loreto.com website. The website will help market Loreto as an eco- tourism destination, and will encourage support for locally-based restaurants, hotels, businesses, guides, and other tourism services and programs that engender a conservation ethic.
The official electronic magazine will be : www.loreto.com
Sister Cities/Sister Parks/Sister Missions – Loreto, BCS and Ventura, California
Our Board members and our efforts have driven the young, but already successful, international “Sister City” relationship between Loreto and Ventura, California. The municipal governments “exchanged keys,” and are now co-marketing mutually beneficial arrangements around tourism (eco-tourism and religious tourism), information exchanges, and experiential educational opportunities.
In late 2016, the presidents of the United States and México committed in Washington, D.C., to a formal “Sister Parks” agreement linking PNBL and the Channel Islands National Park (CINP) in Ventura, CA. The agreement was formalized with a signing in Hawaii at the quadrennial meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (signed by Alejandro del Mazo, Director, National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP), and Jonathan Jarvis, National Park Service Director, now retired).
The two national parks are strikingly similar. Each is adjacent to a tourism- dependent city and each is home to five ocean islands with incredibly diverse ecosystems that are relatively easy to access by boat. Both parks also are part of the Blue Whale’s migration route.
CINP marine scientists have extensive experience with initiating and tracking success in “no-take” fishery replenishment zones, and Park Rangers and crews of volunteers have experience with enforcement of these initiatives. Park managers already have offered assistance to Loreto’s marine park in assessing and implementing effective options. Formalization of the Sister Parks relationship makes PNBL’s success part of the mission of CINP and gives its managers a green light to assist PNBL with human and physical resources on a limited basis.
Ventura’s business incubator, administered by its city hall, will also serve as a model and as support for our own economic development initiative. The Mayor of Loreto and Eco-Alianza representatives have already visited the incubator space at the invitation of the Mayor of Ventura. Leaders in Ventura’s Sister City Committee are also managers at the city’s tourist visitor center and have offered counsel in establishing a small welcome center in Loreto.
The Father of Ventura’s historic Mission Buenaventura has repeatedly visited Loreto as part of the Sister City committee, and spearheaded a motion to create a Sister Mission relationship.
“Recognized as the Head and Mother of all Missions in Alta and Baja California, the faithful parishioners of Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, founded in 1697 in Baja California Sur, and the faithful parishioners of Mission San Buenaventura, founded in 1782 in Alta California, have entered into a covenant and commit to support each other in prayer to: witness the Gospel, cultivate our religious heritage, provide temporal resources and encourage pilgrimage to all the missions in the Californias in fidelity to Holy Mother Church, the Holy Father, our respective bishops and dioceses as Sister Missions.”
Unique to this relationship is the religious history of both missions, which is the foundation and very fabric of our mutual heritage that has sustained our communities for centuries.
This Sister Mission partnership may also support each other during natural disasters or other emergencies by raising funds or collecting needed-supplies. By sharing each other’s cultures through sister relationships, communities can gain insight into the history, values and spirit that make up their sister mission, sister city, and sister national parks and reserves.
This “sisterhood” in all its manifestations will benefit Loreto and our other initiatives — from strengthening our marine park management to strengthening our social ventures incubator to helping establish a marine science program for Loreto’s campus of the state university (UABCS), to fostering sustainable land use and water management approaches both here and in the U.S.A.
Eco-Alianza and UC Natural Reserve System Formal Partnership
A five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed in June, 2019 with the University of California, establishes Loreto as an official “Sister Reserve” and names Eco-Alianza as the Mexican entity empowered to shepherd potentially dozens of scientific research projects.This hallmark accomplishment will positively impact Eco-Alianza and Loreto’s natural, cultural, and educational environment for decades to come, and signed MoU in itself is the realization of a years-long effort as the initiative made its way through the University of California administration.
“In January 1965, the Regents of the University of California established the Natural Land and Water Reserves System, as the Natural Reserve System was first known. Seven University-owned sites became the system’s first Reserves. Today the UCNRS consists of 41 Reserves that include more than 750,000 acres across the state. The Reserves are available not only to students, teachers, and researchers from the University of California, but to qualified users in science, art, the humanities, teaching, and other disciplines. No other university-operated network of field sites in the world can match the size, scope, and ecological diversity of the NRS.” (https://ucnrs.org/)
Several years ago, UCNRS leaders recognized that sites beyond the borders of California may also be useful, in fact critical, to help researchers from the University of California and elsewhere tie their scientific studies into a global context. The first international Sister Reserve arrangement, with Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in Namibia, was established in 2017. A number of exchanges between UC and this African desert reserve are already occurring, including a UC Riverside study-abroad course on ecology and herpetology, and research into desert reptile physiology and how much moisture fog contributes to desert plants.
The MoU signed with Eco-Alianza establishes Loreto and the Bay of Loreto National Park as the second international Sister Reserve of the UCNRS. This did not happen by accident. In fact, it is the outcome of hundreds of hours of meetings, dozens of communications back and forth, and several visits to Loreto by professors, researchers, and administrators from the University of California, and managers of its Natural Reserve System, including its executive director, Peggy Fiedler.
From Eco-Alianza’s standpoint, partnering with the UCNRS holds the promise of urgently needed scientific research to provide data critical to conservation management of marine, insular, coastal, and inland environments. The research will help create an international focus on Loreto’s natural wonders and its overwhelming conservation needs, and also will expose Loreto’s youth to terrestrial and marine science and to working scientists.
Sustainable Fisheries and Resource Management
Like many fishing communities on the Gulf of California, Loreto has relied for many generations on a seemingly limitless supply of seafood. Over the last few decades, however, fish stocks have dwindled and fish sizes have shrunk.
Historically, fishermen here have simply caught what the ocean has offered up, with little record keeping or selective harvesting. Fish, clams, sea turtles, and other marine products have historically sustained the small human population. But, as the local population has grown, fishing methods by local families have continued relatively unchanged, despite scientific advances in understanding the importance of breeding cycles, marine ecosystems, and other factors influencing sustainable harvests.
The new park management will use proven fisheries science to increase both biomass and diversity through an expanded network of fishery replenishment zones, while still allowing for sustainable harvests.
Eco-Alianza’s Marine and Coastal Program Director has already been working with fishing cooperatives to encourage use of logbooks, which are beginning to provide baseline catch data. Analysis of data will ultimately result in a plan to manage the catch of stressed species, protect breeding cycles, and enforce no-take zones that the fishing cooperatives and other stakeholders have helped to establish.
The resources of the Park, and the incomes of local fishermen relying on traditional fishing methods, also have been stressed by outside forces. Large international fishing conglomerates have used extractive methods that are destructive to “bycatch” species and the sea floor, to sea turtles, and to the overall health of local ecosystems. Similarly, harvest of Loreto’s iconic “almejas chocolatas” — chocolate clams (Megapitaria squalida) has been thrown out of balance through harvest by scuba divers using large suction hoses instead of traditional methods. The clam fishery has been closed intermittently due to overfishing.
As stated earlier, PNBL is 29 times the size of the park at Cabo Pulmo, so research and enforcement efforts are extremely challenging even in the best of times with sufficient financial resources. With its operating budget halved, PNBL’s Director approached Eco-Alianza for donations for the maintenance of and fuel for the Park Rangers’ boats. This support is now taking shape.
In addition to the efforts mentioned above, supporting conservation protection for endangered, endemic species on PNBL’s islands is critical. The remote nature of Isla Catalina, for example, helps protect the Catalina deer mouse (Peromyscus slevini) and the Santa Catalina rattlesnake (Crotalus Catalinensis, “the rattlesnake that lost its rattle”). But illegal “collectors” for the pet trade have previously threatened the snake’s populations and are surely heartened by lax enforcement. Both of these species are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Here again, management assistance by Channel Islands National Park could be extremely helpful as scientists and managers there also have vast experience protecting endemic island species.
Mining Threat/Watershed Protection Campaign
In the near term, perhaps the greatest threat to Loreto’s sustainable future is the prospect of a large-scale mining operation being sited here. Nearly 200,000 acres in the municipality are now under mining concession (although no exploitation permits have yet been applied for).
Specialized mining exploration companies from Australia and Canada have been aggregating mining concessions in the most promising areas. Azure Minerals reported to its shareholders that “Surface sampling was very successful for copper and gold. Stage 2 exploration, comprising detailed surface mapping and sampling, has recently been completed, with results awaited.” We have developed separate documents that provide additional details.
Mining concessions, unfortunately, overlap and abut the San Juan Londo watershed, which provides nearly all of the drinking water for Loreto. If a mine were to be permitted, mining-related caustics leaching into the aquifer, or being flushed into the Park during a flooding event or failed holding pond dam, could be catastrophic. Mining operations could pollute the air, drinking water, watershed, view-shed, family-oriented social sector, and Park ecosystems.
Eco-Alianza has monitored this potentially devastating threat for several years, and was instrumental in working with the municipal government to enact one of México’s first POELs, a local ordinance that strictly limits mining activities in the municipality. The legislation was passed nearly unanimously, with minimal dissent.
Although it is not possible to outlaw mining (under Mexican Federal law), the 400- page ordinance is designed to make the establishment of a large-scale mining operation cost prohibitive if not impossible. This municipal ordinance is untested in court and the international mining companies involved are well funded. Accordingly, continued vigilance and preparation are called for. Although a legal challenge is not imminent, environmental attorneys from CEMDA and DAN think it is probable.
We are expanding our Loreto Watershed Campaign as part of an overall strategy to defend Loreto’s ground water and aquifers, and protect the watershed basins against toxic economic activities, including mining. Scientists from both of our “sister” universities are available to update hydrology studies and provide well-researched scientific benchmarks that could serve to refute claims of “no impact” by any future mining industry environmental impact statements.
Our Watershed Protection Campaign has three core elements:
1. Prepare the municipal planning department to correctly interpret and enforce the Plan de Ordenamiento Ecológico Local (POEL) and the Urban Development Plan. The POEL is very specific, dividing the municipality into 94 environmental management units (UGAs) and 184 sub-units, with awide variety of regulations. The Urban Development Plan for the main development corridor of themunicipality includes additional, separate regulations. Our work will use GIS technology to prepare aguide for municipal employees to interpret the POEL when a mining company or developer appliesfor permits. Training workshops will prepare the planning department to assess permit applicationsand interpret the regulations appropriately. Additional workshops will be offered to developers andcompanies interested in proposing projects, encouraging them to strictly follow existing regulationswhen in the planning phase, before submitting plans.
2. Environmental attorneys from CEMDA and DAN have suggested a proactive legal approach toassist and prepare the citizens and the municipality of Loreto to defend the POEL and its intent incourt. We will recruit and engage a team of legal talent and expert witnesses to assess and completeall necessary background work — providing the municipality with a “turnkey” strategy to defendingthe POEL and its ramifications. The municipality’s finances currently would not accommodate thisimportant, proactive legal preparation.
3. To counter industry-slanted, pro-mining propaganda, we will compile and prepare fact- and science-based assessments of the impact of mining projects on host communities. Our water conservation and water testing programs already support a well-informed citizenry, so this project will take our efforts a step further. It will encourage grassroots citizen action by Loretanos who support the POEL and watershed conservation.
Copies of supporting signed agreements available upon request at email@example.com
A. Sister Park Agreement between Mexico and the U.S.
B. Letter of Support from the University of Baja California Sur
C. Agreement between CONANP and Eco-Alianza
D. Agreement between Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto and Eco-Alianza
E. MOU Between University of California and Eco-Alianza