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Defending the Gulf of California's Coastline

Defending the
Gulf of California's
Coastline
Mexico's government is ignoring its own environmental laws
and authorizing massive development projects
near fragile marine ecosystems.

The Gulf of California teems with devil rays, humpback whales, sea lions, giant conches, and leatherback sea turtles. It also supports hundreds of fish species in numbers so robust that schools have been known to blot out the sun above divers.

Cabo Pulmo, the jewel of the Gulf of California, is nestled at the southern tip of Baja California. The 20,000-year-old reef is one of just three of its kind on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Many of the 800 species of marine animals in the Gulf of California seek refuge in the reef, and it plays a critical role in the greater ecology of the region.

But this ecological treasure is under threat. Developers are planning significant tourism construction in the region, such as Cabo Cortés—a massive hotel and golf complex that was proposed for construction next door to Cabo Pulmo reef.

A strong grassroots campaign by local groups and millions of petitioners worldwide convinced Mexico's President Calderón to reject the Cabo Cortés project. But numerous similar projects are waiting in the wings. Two projects—Paraíso del Mar and Entre Mares—are planned adjacent to each other on a fragile sandbar in the Bay of La Paz. Another, Playa Espíritu, would be built in the Marismas Nacionales, an internationally recognized wetland that supports 20 percent of the mangrove forests in Mexico.

Aerial view of Cabo Pulmo.

Photo courtesy of Sidartha Velázquez

Photos: Cabo Pulmo, Marismas Nacionales, & More

Whale shark and diver.

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© Carlos Aguilera
1 / 22

Aerial view of Cabo Pulmo.

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© Sidartha Velázquez
2 / 22

Angel fish in coral reef.

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© Gustavo Danemann
3 / 22

Whale shark.

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© Carlos Aguilera
4 / 22

Marismas Nacionales.

© Gustavo Danemann
5 / 22

Cabo Pulmo Reef.

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© Gustavo Danemann
6 / 22

Birds, at Marismas Nacionales.

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© Gustavo Danemann
7 / 22

Black coral, at Cabo Pulmo.

© Arturo Hernández
8 / 22

Manta Rays.

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© Carlos Aguilera
9 / 22

Wetlands of Marismas Nacionales.

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© Gustavo Danemann
10 / 22

Crocodile, in Marismas Nacionales.

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© Gustavo Danemann
11 / 22

Rock formations in the Gulf of California.

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© Astrid Puentes
12 / 22

A sea lion and sardines.

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© Gustavo Danemann
13 / 22

A diver, at Cabo Pulmo.

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© Carlos Aguilera
14 / 22

Sea lions, in the Gulf of California.

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© Astrid Puentes
15 / 22

A beach by the Gulf of California.

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© Astrid Puentes
16 / 22

Cabrilla, in the Gulf of California.

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© Gustavo Danemann
17 / 22

Crocodile, in Marismas Nacionales.

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© Gustavo Danemann
18 / 22

Playa Balabra, by the Gulf of California.

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© Astrid Puentes
19 / 22

Local fishermen.

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© Gustavo Danemann
20 / 22

Whale shark.

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© Carlos Aguilera
21 / 22

Aerial view of Cabo Pulmo.

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© Sidartha Velázquez
22 / 22

<  "Mega Resort" Projects within the Gulf of California.  [View Larger Map]

Such massive tourism development will exhaust water resources in this desert region, overwhelm the sparsely populated area with tourists, and pollute the sensitive marine environment. Only a strong public campaign kept the Cabo Cortés project from reaching completion, but the Cabo Pulmo reef and the larger Gulf of California remain under threat. In evaluating the environmental impacts of tourism development projects, the Mexican government has consistently failed to enforce its own environmental regulations, repeatedly permitting unsustainable projects.

Enforcement of environmental laws is critical to preserving unique natural resources such as the Cabo Pulmo reef and accomplishing the twin goals of ocean conservation and sustainable development. Responsible ecotourism provides a source of income for the local community. Coral reefs and mangroves act as fish nurseries and their protection boosts fish populations in adjacent areas, improving the livelihoods of fishing communities throughout the region.

Related

Legal Case
Defending the
Gulf of California from "Mega Resorts"

Petition to the Commission
English  |  Spanish

Press Release
Groups Seek Investigation into Mexico's Approval of Four "Mega Resorts"

Trip's Column
Mexico Should Heed Lush Lesson of Costa Rica

Earthjustice and Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), representing local and international environmental organizations, are petitioning the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation to investigate the Mexican government's lack of enforcement.

The Commission's investigation into whether the Mexican government could more effectively enforce its environmental laws in the context of coastal tourism development would contribute greatly to the protection and sustainable management of precious resources for this and future generations.

Video:
Baja All-Exclusive, la otra cara de los desarrollos turísticos de sudcalifornia
7Filos Producciones / 2011
Director: Carmina Valiente
Available in English & Spanish

Video:
La Reserva Marina de Cabo Pulmo
FUNDEA / 2008
Director: Octavio Aburto
Supported by Comunidad y Biodiversidad A.C. & The Walton Family Foundation

How You Can Help:

A strong grassroots campaign by local groups and millions of petitioners worldwide convinced Mexico's President Calderón to reject the Cabo Cortés project—but numerous similar projects are waiting in the wings.

Support the citizen petition asking the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation to investigate the Mexican government's failure to enforce environmental laws!

Together, we can protect the ecological treasures of the Gulf of California.

Take Action Today!

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Related:


Magazine Feature
Dying Reefs: Ocean Acidification

Despite its remarkable rebound, the Cabo Pulmo reef in the Gulf of California and other coral reefs worldwide—and the marine food web as a whole—face deep peril.


Interview
Q&A with Astrid Puentes, AIDA Co-Director

From offices in Mexico City, Astrid Puentes serves as co-director of Earthjustice's sister organization, the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA).


Slideshow
Earthjustice & AIDA: Partners in International Law

AIDA is an environmental law organization that protects threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. Learn about some of their most important work.

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