Monday, January 17, 2011

Sea of Cortez World Heritage Site Threatened by Mega-Development

Off the coast of Cabo Pulmo, a fishing village about two hours east of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur, is the largest coral reef system in the Sea of Cortez and, at an estimated 20,000 years old, possibly the oldest reef in the Northeastern Pacific.

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 Marine 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.

The richness of Cabo Pulmo has been recognized internationally. In 2005, Cabo Pulmo was integrated into the World Heritage Natural Sites list by UNESCO and in 2008 to the RAMSAR Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance convention list.

Unfortunately, development pressures along the East Cape now threaten the fragile beauty, abundance, and diversity of the marine species for which it is famous. If a Spanish resort company, Hansa Urbana, has its way, the reef of Cabo Pulmo will be destroyed. Hansa Urbana is proposing a mega-resort with more than 30,000-rooms, golf courses and marinas in close proximity to the reef.

A coalition of Mexican conservationists has organized the Cabo Pulmo Vivo! Campaign to protect the delicate coral reef and amazing marine species of Cabo Pulmo. American organizations such as WiLDCOAST and NRDC have joined the campaign as well.

What affects the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur affects all of us who live or visit along its coasts, so we along its northern reaches should be mindful of what's happening further south.

A coalition of grassroots organizations, individuals and local residents are working day and night to put pressure on the Mexican authorities to cancel the permit that would allow the construction of the Mega-development that would undoubtedly destroy the magnificent coral reef in Cabo Pulmo.

Take Action! You can help save the reef at Cabo Pulmo. Go to WiLDCOAST or Cabo Pulmo Vivo! to sign a petition, make a contribution, or volunteer.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain