NAFTA To Review Tourist Developments in Baja
Earlier this month, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) agreed to review a petition by Earthjustice and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) asserting that Mexico is failing to enforce its environmental laws to protect coastal ecosystems in the Gulf of California from rampant tourism development.
The petition, submitted on behalf of 11 local and international conservation groups, calls for an investigation into Mexico’s unlawful approval of four “mega resorts” that threaten important mangrove, coral reef, and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of California.
The Gulf of California is home to an astonishing diversity of marine life, including humpback and gray whales, sea lions, devil rays, leatherback sea turtles, whale sharks, and hundreds of fish species. The coastal wetlands are home to jaguars, crocodiles, and many species of migratory birds.
The CEC is an international body established under the North American Free Trade Agreement to promote cooperation among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. on environmental issues of continental concern.
Two of the mega resort projects—Paraíso del Mar and Entre Mares—are planned next to each other on a fragile sandbar in the Bay of La Paz in Baja California. Construction has already begun at one site. Another project, Playa Espíritu, is being built inside the internationally recognized wetland of Marismas Nacionales, which supports 20 percent of the mangrove forests in Mexico. Another major resort and golf complex is planned in Cabo Cortes immediately adjacent to the renowned Cabo Pulmo coral reef.
If the commission decides to investigate it would shine a spotlight on the Mexican government’s failure to effectively enforce its environmental laws in the face of coastal tourism development, and could prompt Mexico to protect and sustainably manage these fragile ecosystems and endangered species.