Dear Friends of the Sea:
In 1993 a group of people concerned with the rapidly declining fish populations in the Sea of Cortes founded SeaWatch initially to stop the killing of Giant Pacific Mantas at the Revillagigedo Islands and to get it declared a biosphere. In 2007 SeaWatch Director and attorney Maria Ugarte, initiated, petitioned and got Federal regulations enacted that prohibit any use of compressed air for any fish extraction in all Mexico’s ocean waters. In 2009, SeaWatch working with local supporters initiated citizen driven vigilance to stop illegal nighttime fishing that was taking 20 tons a night of fish from the Bay of La Paz. In 2016 SeaWatch along with help from friend Miguel Sanchez Navarro initiated and is funding a very successful campaign to help the fisheries recover in the Bay of La Paz and at Archipelago Espiritu Santo These two efforts are currently supported by SeaWatch:
Espiritu Santo es parte de ti:
A pride campaign that will convince the citizens of La Paz how important Espiritu Santo is to their economic health and quality of life, so they can advocate for healthy reefs and reef fish populations.
A citizen-driven vigilance program to stop the illegal fishing by pistoleros at night and encerradores by day.
CREATING THE NEXT “CABO PULMO-LIKE” FISHERIES RECOVERY IN THE SEA OF CORTEZ
For the last 30 years the Sea of Cortez has seen its reefs and reef fisheries decline at an alarming rate.
There is only one place in the entire Sea of Cortez that has stopped and reversed the declines. Twenty years ago the citizens of Cabo Pulmo National Park took matters into their own hands, and with community-wide commitment, stopped the illegal fishing that was killing the reef and reef fish populations by providing 24-hour vigilance to stop the destruction. They reversed the decline and the recovery in fish populations was spectacular. Nowhere else has this happened in the Sea of Cortez.
That was until now. Thanks to a campaign called “Espiritu Santo es parte de ti” it’s currently happening in La Paz, just 14 miles from the most beautiful island archipelago in all the Sea of Cortez – Archipelago Espiritu Santo.
The “Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” campaign is focused on generating pride, inspiring change, promoting good practices and supporting and funding 24 hour vigilance efforts to bring back the depleted reefs and reef fish in the Archipelago Espiritu Santo National Park which is known as one of the most beautiful island groups in the Sea of Cortez. It is a grass roots collective effort that includes non-profit organizations, tourism companies, government agencies, markets, and restaurants in La Paz and beyond.
The goal is that by 2019, Archipelago Espiritu Santo will be an effective marine protected area, prosperous, diverse and healthy ecosystem, a reflection of a proud, informed and committed society that protects and uses its resources responsibly.
- Citizens of La Paz are proud of having one of the richest islands in natural resources in the Gulf of California. They know the value and economic potential of Espiritu Santo, value a vibrant marine ecosystem and are inspired to be agents of change.
- Users (fishermen, tour operators and visitors) are aware of the rules and regulations of the Archipelago Espiritu Santo National Marine Park, and participate actively to report irregularities and support monitoring actions.
- Restaurants and citizens of La Paz promote responsible consumption of fish, avoiding species important to ecosystem health such as parrotfish.
Our main communication channel with the public is social media, where our publications have reached a total of 1,201,156 persons. You can view our Facebook page statistics here.
PUBLIC PRIDE AND AWARENESS
“Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” campaign teamed with Urbanería and Colectivo Tomate (local and national nonprofit organizations that work to improve public spaces with the help of the community) to transform the downtown area of the city of La Paz with the project Ciudad Mural La Paz, where 30 collective murals have brightened up the city with the help of 27 national artists.
The “Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” team organized talks with the artists and different sectors of La Paz including nonprofit groups, youth groups, restaurateurs and local fisherman. We also teamed with the tour operators Fun Baja and Baja Expeditons, and with the non profit organization Niparajá, to take the artists to get inspiration from experiencing the beauty of Archipelago Espiritu Santo.
This art has captivated the attention of the citizens of La Paz and tourists alike, people have become excited and attentive. Hopefully, the new murals in La Paz will inspire more people to do something positive and constructive for the city and our marine environment.
RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION: PARROTFISH-FREE RESTAURANTS
Although not illegal to consume, sell or buy, parrotfish sold at markets and restaurants are killed by illegal fishing methods: pistoleros using compressed air at night, harpooning fish while they sleep and enterradores that during the day, with divers in the water drive fish into nets on reefs aided by a illegal portable air compressors. The law says you can’t use any form of compressed air for fish extraction in any ocean waters in all Mexico.
To date, two of the major supermarkets in La Paz (Chedraui and Walmart) have committed to stop selling parrotfish in their La Paz stores. And 13 of the 33 top restaurants of La Paz have committed to stop selling parrotfish and their owners and chefs are spokepersons of “Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” campaign.
In the second phase of this component of the campaign we are planning to distribute bumper stickers around the responsible restaurants that pledge not to sell parrotfish, along with an interview that we will post online.
Each restaurant will have the brochure you see on this page on every table. The other side of the brochure has a parrotfish that kids to color while they are in the restaurant. The drawings will be entered into a competition where the prize is a family trip to Archipelago Espiritu Santo.
We have already 11 interviews with restaurant owners and chefs scheduled. You can watch the one done with Anzuelo restaurant below.
Click to see the full interview that received over 20,000 views on Facebook
“ESPÍRITU SANTO ES PARTE DE TI” TEAM
We have the best people to run “Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” campaign, led by Campaign Director Lucia Corral who helped lead the grassroots effort to provide permanent protection to one of La Paz’s premier public beach sites of outstanding beauty, Balandra Bay.
We have brought some of the best underwater photographers and film-makers in the world to document our campaign and in 6 months we have seen solid results on getting citizens of La Paz to get behind our goal of recovering the reef ecosystem around Archipelahgo Espiritu Santo.
ROC: CITIZEN DRIVEN VIGILANCE AT ARCHIPELAGO ESPIRITU SANTO
For the last 25 years, hookah-diving pistoleros and encerradores have stripped the reefs of most fish around Archipelago Espiritu Santo and in the Bay of La Paz.
This destruction stopped temporarily in 2009-2010 as a result of the first citizen-driven vigilance in the Bay of La Paz (Red de Observatorio Ciudadano, or “ROC”). In it’s first year of operation, ROC’s predecessor stopped the killing of over 500 tons of reef fish in the Bay of La Paz and around Archipelago Espiritu Santo and the number of illegal boats was reduced from 29 to 4.
In 2011 the illegal fishermen fought back getting CONAPESCA (Mexico’s fisheries agency) to delay and stop prosecution of illegal fishing and not go out on patrols.
Now in response to public pressure and the realization of the effectiveness of ROC’s work, new and formal agreements have been negotiated with the NAVY, CONANP (the Mexican national park service), CONAPESCA (fisheries) and PROFEPA (the legal arm of the Mexican national park service) to include government authorities on ROC patrol boats to help stop illegal fishing. And the first bust came in October of last year through a joint operation with ROC where an illegal boat was apprehended with 600 kilos of small reef fish from AES and the boat and all its contents were impounded by CONAPESCA and was later confiscated. Since then 4 more boats have been confiscated.
THE RECOVERY HAS STARTED
Archipelago Espiritu Santo Marine National Park just had it’s 10th anniversary and 6 months since the “Espiritu Santo es parte de ti” Campaign started, the first stage of fisheries recovery is evident and measurable.
At the end of the first six months of the “Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” campaign and with ROC’s vigilance that has stopped the illegal fishing day and night we are seeing the beginning of a strong fisheries recovery at Archipelago Espiritu Santo.
In the video below taken in May of 2017 you will see the way it was two years ago and the way it is today. While there are few big fish there are again many small cabrilla and snapper, the fish first targeted and eliminated by illegal fishermen (pistoleros and encerradores). Most notable is the tranquility that has returned to the reefs. No longer are fish diving for the protection of the rocks the second you put your head underwater. Their natural curiosity has returned and they come up to investigate what you are.