iLCP photographers team up with several Mexican organizations to stand up with the community of Cabo Pulmo, to protect its magnificent reef system.
About Cabo Pulmo
By the 1990s, decades of overfishing the waters of the Sea of Cortez left the coral reef at Cabo Pulmo, in the East Cape region of the Baja California Peninsula, almost void of life. To reverse this process the local community convinced the Mexican federal government to establish a marine protected area at Cabo Pulmo in 1995. Ninety-nine percent of the 17,560 acre Marine Protected Area that was established is ocean.
Today the Cabo Pulmo National Park is one the most successful examples of marine conservation in Mexico. Fishing was banned inside the park and local residents, along with the Mexican government, helped to bring the reef back from complete destruction.
Unfortunately, development pressures along the East Cape now threaten the fragile beauty, abundance, and diversity of the marine species for which it is famous.
"Coral reefs are very fragile ecosystems”, explains Dr. Octavio Aburto Oropeza, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and an Associate of the International League of Conservation Photographers. "They are nurseries essential to populating the oceans. Cabo Pulmo is estimated to be 20,000 years old, and is home to 226 fish species".
A Spanish company, Hansa Urbana, plans to build a tourism mega-development on 9,875 acres adjacent to the marine park. If the development goes through, the tranquil and white sand fringed Cabo Pulmo will be joined by 40,000 new residents in a complex that will include hotels, condominiums, a 490 slip marina, two golf courses, and shopping centers.
Mexican environmental authorities had already given the green light to the Spanish company but eight months of legal and media pressures by a coalition of local residents, non-profit organizations, and researchers have made the Secretary of the Environment reconsider the project. It has temporarily revoked Hansa's building permits pending new evidence on the impacts of the development on the coral reef.
The director of the Cabo Pulmo National Park, Javier Alejandro Gonzalez, told the media in an interview that the National Commission on National Protected Areas (CONANP) found that Cabo Cortes' environmental-impact assessment "was vague in several points" and contained figures that "had not been validated".
"We have spoken with experts, such as Dr. Octavio Aburto Oropeza, from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Dr Exequiel Ezcurra, and others, and they all warn of dire consequences if the resort project is not cancelled', says Fay Crevoshay, communications director of WiLDCOAST, and part of the coalition called "Cabo Pulmo Vivo!", that is trying to raise public awareness about the threats to the reef.
Enrique Castro, whose family has lived for five generations in the small community, says, "fifteen years ago we stopped fishing and started taking care of the reef. Today we offer tourist services such as diving, snorkeling, boat rides, sport fishing [outside of the park], and lodging. And now they are going to kill the reef and what about us? Tourists will not come to see a dead reef."
Stand up with the community of Cabo Pulmo!
The final decision has not yet been made. You can help save the reef at Cabo Pulmo. The alliance “Cabo Pulmo Vivo” brings some of the most important regional organizations, academic institutions, and iLCP Photographers to stewardship the reef: Amigos para la Conservación de Cabo Pulmo, Niparaja, Pronatura Noroeste, Wildcoast, CEMDA, DAN, Los Cabos CoastKeeper, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Go to !Cabo Pulmo Vivo¡ to sign a petition, make a contribution, or volunteer.