Sea Watch helped start and fund with (NOS) and several other NGO’s a group called Observatorio Ciudadano (OC) or Citizen Observers in 2009. 2010 was a year devoted to implementing that vigilance program. In its first year of operation it was successful beyond what many imagined and you can see more fish on every reef around the Bay of La Paz. See some of the latest short videos showing the dramatic return of fish. Fish returning to Islotes, Fish returning to San Diego
For the previous 15 years starting in the early 1990’s, hookah divers had been killing the reef fish in the Sea of Cortes. By 2007 there were few fish left. In 2007 Sea Watch director and attorney Maria Ugarte sponsored a federal regulation “prohibiting hookah use for fish extraction in all Mexican waters.” It was enacted in May of 2009 and was considered law in La Paz although it took until February 2015 to be published in the DOF making it the law of the land. Now, no compressed air (hookah or tanks) can be used to extract any fin fish in any Mexican waters. Watch Video of the destruction In the year 2010, in the La Paz area where OC patrols work, conservative estimates put the decrease in illegal activity at 80% .
That translates into the minimum tonnage of reef fish saved from being illegally shot at night (pistoleros) or netted using hookah during the day (encerradores) at 500 plus tons. The OC program, with former pistoleros running the patrol boat has facilitated a relationship with illegal fisherman that has enabled Plataforma to understand motives and offer economic alternatives, a major part of the programs success. Download the executive summary of the Observatorio Ciudadano Annual Report
Starting in late 2012 and 2013, Sea Watch helped the OC program become independent and it combined with Waterkeepers Alliance to give it a more international stature and to get funding and support from a different but very similar and symbiotic funding base. The new entity is called Red de Observatorio Ciudadano (ROC), or Citizens Observer Network in English. In 2013 Sea Watch also funded over $15,000 to update, remodel and power ROC’s new bigger and much safer night patrol boat. This boat is capable of carrying our captains, who are the best of the former illegal night time spear fishermen, as well as authorities, reporters, students, donors, etc. Their normal patrol is 2 days and 2 nights and they travel about 150 miles. In 2014 and 2015 there have been changes in the problems confronting the Espiritu Santo Marine park and for the last 2 year years a reduced budget at OC and Conanp has allowed totally unregulated fishing in the Espritu Santo Marine Park by both sports and commercial fishermen. Those prblems are clearly seen in this video Marine Park at Espiritu Santo in big trouble It is our goal at SeaWatch to work with OC to reverse that trend starting in late 2015- and 2016. Without good vigilance from dusk till dawn, illegal fishing will condemn The Marine Park at Espiritu Santo to become another failed marine park instead of a sucessful marine park like Cabo Pulmo that has high quality vigilance and peer pressure to continually make the park better.