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: