WILDCOAST IMPACT 2014

One of the great pleasures of being the Executive Director of WILDCOAST is being able to evaluate our impact each year. And this year was a tremendous year of success. Here are some of our results.

impacts page

Advertisements

Blown Away by Finca Altozana

IMG_1459

To celebrate our 24th Wedding Anniversary, my wife Emily and I and our longtime friends Trace and Teri took a trip to Javier Plascencia’s Finca Altozano in the Valle de Guadalupe on Mexico’s Highway 3 in northern Baja California. It was a wonderful day and meal, and we were all blown away by the sumptuous meal and spectacular and sublime beauty of the  restaurant and the setting among vineyards.

IMG_1464

The view of the vineyards of the Valle de Guadalupe from Finca Altozano. I would never have predicted that from the ashes of what was the Baja California tourism industry after about 2007, that a world-class wine and food scene would have emerged in the chapparal landscape of northern Baja California and in what were declining urban environments of  Tijuana and Ensenada. I am awed by the creativity, originality and entrepreneurial spirit of the purveyors and dreamers behind this wonderful scene. It is also a strong argument against Mexico’s past model of mega-tourism and demonstrates the vitality of a sustainable tourism model that celebrates Mexico’s diverse and unique landscapes, cultures and natural environment.

IMG_1439

Trace and Teri have been traveling with us to Baja for over 20 years including an epic journeys to Bahia Magdalena, Bahia de los Angeles, and Laguna San Ignacio. Teri and I have been friends for 42 years (we grew up together down the street from each other).

IMG_1461

It is truly a bucolic setting. It was hot yesterday–in the 90s–but the restaurant was an oasis.

IMG_1433

Emily and I met in Lima, Peru, in August 1985, were married in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 2, 1989, and life has been an adventure ever since. Baja is so special to us since we lived in Laguna San Ignacio, Bahia Magdalena and Todos Santos for a total of 2 1/2 years and travel throughout the Peninsula extensively. We are so lucky to live on the Border so we can sample the best of Baja fairly easily.

IMG_1427

Grilled red peppers and rose wine.

IMG_1443

The outdoor grill.

IMG_1448

They do a roast pig on occasion–so here’s the pig that will be roasted. Don’t get too attached!

IMG_1428

Grilled and stuffed squash.

IMG_1442

The open-air kitchen.

IMG_1429

Beef tongue and lamb tacos were tasty.

IMG_1430

Here’s grilled octopus in an Asian style sauce. I have a special place in my palate for pulpo because when Emily and I lived in Laguna San Ignacio in 1993-94 we spent many afternoons hunting it down on low-tide excusions with Maria Luisa “La Yaqui” Camacho de Aguilar and her son Octaviano along with our Australian shepherd Chip and their black lab Black. Pulpo or octopus is one of Javier Plascencia’s signature dishes, and for me, along with freshly harvested bay scallops or almeja catarina.  are my favorite seafood dishes.

IMG_1449

Finca Altozano is all about the little things and food. All these touches like the wine bottles make it such a unique restaurant.

IMG_1456

Emily in the garden.

IMG_1455

An Argentine style roasting spit and BBQ.

IMG_1460

Everything is done in great taste. The aesthetics of what I would call the Baja rustic and especially Valle de Guadalupe design style are really nice.

IMG_1462

After a two-hour meal. I’m happy–I swear! Ilook forward to  many more adventures in Baja and returning to Finca Altozano and the Valle de Guadalupe with Emily.

Wild Sea Review: New Book Explores Beach Culture, Conservation in California and Mexico


In “Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias,”Serge Dedina tells the real-life story of struggles, blockades and the loss of rich biodiverse land in California and the Baja California peninsula.

“Wild Sea” will host a book-launch party at the Tijuana Estuary Training Center Saturday from 6-8 p.m.

Dedina’s passion for the land started as a kid growing up in Imperial Beach, surfing the Tijuana Sloughs. Making his way up and down the coast for most of his life, this book chronicles surf culture, the elimination of native habitats, and the evolution of organized grassroots efforts to preserve what is left of one of the world’s largest and most diverse coastal ecosystems.

It is a journey into Magdalena Bay, the habitat of precious gray whale breeding habitats, sensitive fisheries and the quickly disappearing sea turtle and includes the stories of surfers, birdwatchers, fishermen, scientists, surfers and environmentalists, who all come together for a common cause.

The book gives a shoreline a view of the history of great wave riders and their evolution from surfers to activists.

It’s also a first-hand account of battles won and lost against poachers, politicians, private companies and government agencies.

Dedina holds nothing back in his judgment of bureaucratic and corporate interests that he believes can pose a threat to these habitats as they search for fossil fuels or mega tourism hotspots. He documents the damage done and pleas for global community involvement.

With strong conviction, Dedina takes a look at problems the region faces today and the decades-long struggle to fight river and ocean pollution from both sides of the border.

Dedina became a co-founder and Executive Director of WiLDCOAST in 2000. Collaborating with Mexico’s government officials, biological specialists and environmental groups, WiLDCOAST expanded its vision in Mexico, creating Costasalvaje in Ensenada. Globally his organization and its partners fight together to protect what is left of the wild sea.

“Wild Sea” is a fantastic read for all ages.

Cabo Pulmo in the Huffington Post

Cabo Pulmo National Park in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Here is a photo essay/article I wrote for the Huffington Post.

CABO PULMO, Mexico – 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.

Unfortunately, development pressures along the East Cape now threaten the fragile beauty, abundance, and diversity of the marine species for which it is famous.

Photo: Octavio Aburto

“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”.

Yellowfin tuna are being fished as a replaceme...

Image via Wikipedia

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 sleepy 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.

Badly planned marina developmet at La Ribera near Cabo Pulmo. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins

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 statement “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 Ezequiel Escurra, 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.”

“Following 15 years of protection the Cabo Pulmo coral reef has recovered from overfishing, becoming the marine area with the highest concentration of fish in the Sea of Cortez,” said Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and author of the forthcoming Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

Photo: Carlos Aguilera

The Baja Boys Surfing Survival Tour 2010

The Baja Boys have been exploring the back roads and surfing the point breaks of Baja California since they were micro-groms. In this video, they break down in the middle of the desert. Stranded and surrounded by scorpions, they find perfect point waves and make friends with the locals.

 

The Baja Boys-Israel, Daniel and Josh take a break from the water.

Field camp in Baja. Good equipment is the key to having fun in Baja. The wind shelter didn't survive a later winter trip.

 

Daniel gets a good one. We almost never encounter crowds where we surf in Baja. We never saw anyone else surfing this spot at all.

Israel got a little tired of going right all the time. Unfortunately our trip to Conejo was marred by big winds.

On this day the groms surfed literally until they dropped. All we do in Baja is surf all day, get up early and go to bed early. A grom paradise.

The Race to Kill Baja and the Sea of Cortez

Here is basically a press release from a yachting publication–announcing the plans for a new mega-resort marina scam on areas that are unsuitable for this type of development. The failure of the Baja Boom (turned Baja Bust) has not dissuaded the state-financed tourism development machine in Mexico to think rationally about Development. Instead there is development any cost for projects that have little relationship to the overall infrastructure and investment needs of the Mexican economy.

—————————————————

Bird’s-eye View — This aerial photo shows the Sea of Cortez entrance to Rio Teacapán and Laguna Agua Grande, near where Fonatur plans two new marinas by the end of 2012, and a mega-resort similar to Cancun to be completed by 2015.

Two Marinas Planned for Huge New Sea of Cortez Resort in 2012
By: Capt. Pat Rains | Thursday, December 09, 2010 10:29:00 AM
Last updated: Thursday, December 09, 2010 10:29:00 AM

Mexico president Felipe Calderon announced plans for a huge new tourist development, including two marinas on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez.

Bird’s-eye View — This aerial photo shows the Sea of Cortez entrance to Rio Teacapán and Laguna Agua Grande, near where Fonatur plans two new marinas by the end of 2012, and a mega-resort similar to Cancun to be completed by 2015.

Described as twice the size of Cancun, the new beachfront development will initially cover 7.5 miles of Sinaloa coastline in an area about 80 miles south of Mazatlan. Stretching over 5,884 acres, the mega-resort will encompass the vast Laguna Agua Grande waterway and several canals, plus the seaside towns of Isla del Bosque and Teacapán at the border with Nayarit.
The fishing port of Teacapán lies about 40 miles north of Isla Isabela, which is a protected nesting zone for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Although Isla Isabela is a popular cruising and fishing destination, the tiny island has room for only a handful of oceangoing yachts in two small fair-weather anchorages.

Logistically, new marinas nearby on the Sinaloa mainland would provide recreational boaters with safer berthing, fuel, shelter from bad weather and shorter offshore passages between existing destinations.

The two new marinas will provide a total of 1,000 slips designed “in harmony with the Escalera Nautica marina model,” according to Fonatur, the federal agency tasked with developing tourism infrastructure. Fonatur completed nine other full-service marinas now operating under the Singlar banner, and most of them are currently for sale or have been sold to private investors.

According to Barnard Thompson of Mexidata.info news service, the project is “provisionally called the Pacific Coast Integrally Planned Center.” Thompson said the first phase of the Sinaloa CIP is slated for completion in 2012, and will cost an estimated $139 million.

“The final stages of the phased developments are to be completed by 2025,” Thompson said. “This is much the same way that other Fonatur master-planned seaside resorts — such as Cancún, Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Loreto and the Bays of Huatulco — have been done.”

Besides the two big tourist marinas, the plan calls for four golf courses, about 44,200 hotel rooms (including hotels and condominiums), a 5-mile beachfront walk and a light railway (an existing rail line runs from Hermosillo to Puerto Vallarta), plus a new airport.

“Based on what has been learned from other CIPs such as Cancun,” Thompson reported, “hotels will not be allowed right on the beach. The required buffer zone will be 300 meters. Hotels will also have a maximum height limit of four stories.”

This huge new development “will be in the midst of the Sinaloa National Wetlands, in part on the near-5,000-acre Rancho Las Cabras, owned by former Sinaloa governor Antonio Toledo Corro,” Thompson’s report stated.

“Fishing is big in the region, commercial fishing (and shrimp farming), and of course sportfishing,” the report continued. “Several species of protected sea turtles come to area beaches; and, at sea, among the many species found are billfish, humpback whales and white sharks.

“Of historical significance, there are large oyster shell mounds near Teacapán that experts say were harvested by indigenous peoples living in the area as long as 4,000 years ago,” the report said.

Local fishermen and panga boat operators at first protested against this development, fearing they would not be allowed to chauffeur the avalanche of new tourists to the indigenous villages, historic oyster mounds and other ecological tours. After agreements were reached last year with hundreds of local ejido members, the resort plans have gone forward. But it still has to clear environmental hurdles.

The Baja Bust

A signed for the failed Trump Baja project.

What was the Baja Boom is now the Baja Bust. Yesterday on a trip to visit our office in Ensenada, I counted 24 empty or abandoned high rise buildings between Tijuana and Ensenada.

It is unlikely that most of these projects will ever be revitalized.

The proposed Trump Baja tower that was to be located near a sewage river.

The big question is–why would anyone want to buy a condo on a high rise tower in Baja with a view that oversees garbage and graffiti everywhere. And plus–who wants to travel to northern Baja when there is literally almost no place to actually have access to the coast.

Until the authorities in Baja start dealing with the issues of urban decay and start making things look nice–as well as assure that the public –including tourists–can get to the beach, the Baja Bust is here to stay.

A Poster for a WiLDCOAST riff on the Trump Baja ads.

Praise for Wild Sea

One of the best things about writing Wild Sea, was having the opportunity to get some great feedback from writers who I really respect. And luckily not only did Dick Russell, Homero Aridjis, Kem Nunn and especilaly Drew Kampion and Ben Marcus provide some good suggestions and support, but they were kind enough to provide some blurbs for my book:

Serge Dedina writes with both passion and clarity about a subject he  knows like the back of his hand.  For anyone with an interest in the
issues that define life on the U.S./Mexican border, Serge’s book is  indispensable.  For anyone with an interest in Southern California
Surf lore, with its attendant iron men and holy goofs, Serge’s book is a pleasure to read.” -Kem Nunn, author of Tijuana Straits

“In Wild Sea, Serge Dedina tells the true story of a wondrous world that’s become his life’s work. Dedina’s eloquent narrative leads us on a harrowing journey through the complex and evolving realities of a threatened and forgotten land.” —Drew Kampion, author of The Way of the Surfer: Living It 1935 to Tomorrow

“From San Juanico Bight to the HBO series John from Cincinnati, Serge Dedina details the trials and tribulations of a desert coast under assault by man and nature, from land and sea.” —Benjamin Marcus, former editor for Surfer magazine and author of Surfing USA! An Illustrated History of the Coolest Sport of All Time

“Serge Dedina has dedicated his life to preserving the coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife of the Californias, researching, writing, fighting battles, and working with local residents to conserve their precious natural heritage. . . . You must read this inspiring book by one of the country’s most articulate and courageous defenders of the environment to find out what’s happening now in Baja California and on the southern California coast, and what we can do about it.” —Homero Aridjis, Founder and President, The Group of 100; Former Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO

“In an era when our last pristine places are being threatened by rampant development, Serge Dedina’s account of his ongoing battle to preserve the Baja Peninsula should inspire environmentalists everywhere. With a surfer’s passion and ingenuity, he takes on the corporate powers – and, along the way, gives us a fascinating history of others who ride the waves.” —Dick Russell, author of Eye of the Whale

%d bloggers like this: