The Wetlands, Dunes and Oysters of Baja’s San Quintin Bay

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour San Quintin Bay with my WILDCOAST colleagues through the invitation by Terra Peninsular, a conservation organization who has helped to conserve much of the bay. We had a great time and were also able to sample the delicious sustainably harvested oysters of Francisco Aguirre and his family. San Quintin is a center for the oyster harvest in Baja (along with Laguna San Ignacio). Congratulations to Terra Peninsular for their effort in preserving such a unique and delicate area that is in such great shape.

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The wetlands of San Quintin are the most important and largest remaining in the Southern California-Baja California Eco-Region.

The beach at San Quintin. These dunes have been preserved by Terra Peninsular.

The beach at San Quintin. These dunes have been preserved by Terra Peninsular.

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Of course the surf was firing the day we visited and we were without boards. Generally the wind howls here.

Our group in San Quintin. Thanks to Terra Peninsular, much of this amazing and world class wetland has been preserved.

Our group in San Quintin. Thanks to Terra Peninsular, much of this amazing and world class wetland has been preserved.Photo courtesy of Alan Harper/Terra Peninsula. 

Oysterman Francisco Aguirre explains the oyster harvest.

Oysterman Francisco Aguirre explains the oyster harvest.

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Francisco’s oyster farm at San Quintin Bay.

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Oyster workers-this activity sustains more than 70 families in San Quintin.

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This sustainable activity both helps create local jobs and helps improve water quality in the bay.

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Part of the oyster facility at San Quintin.

Our feast served with Baja wine.

Our feast served with Baja wine.

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My New Book, Surfing the Border

I will launch the tour for my new book, Surfing the Border, on Saturday January 24th in Coronado and Imperial Beach. I will be speaking and signing books at the Coronado Library Winn Room from 2-3pm and then from 5-6:30 pm I’ll be at the Pier South Resort in Imperial Beach. Should be a blast!!

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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.

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The Baja Malibu/Campo Torres Sewage Gulch

These photos were taken at a sewage gulch at the south end of Baja Malibu or Campo Torres on July 23, 2014 (same beach different development). The sewage is released from a development east of the coastal toll road. WILDCOAST is following up with CONAGUA and PROFEPA in Mexico to file complaints. Residents complain of foul odors, fouled ocean water and tons of mosquitoes.

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4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest in San Miguel Day 1

On Saturday March 22, 2014  young surfers from Mexico and the U.S. gathered in San Miguel, Baja California to participate in the 4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest. Organized by Alfredo Ramirez and United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) with the help of Zach Plopper and WILDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE, the event provided a forum for young surfers to rip 2-4′ waves and celebrate international friendships. Additionally, Day 1, included the SUP and bodyboard divisions.

It was a great day. Day 2 on March 23, is the open event. The photos here are all from Day 1.

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Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

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Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

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Girls contestants.

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Daniel Dedina, Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz from IB.

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Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Cameron Bartz.

Cameron Bartz.

Lance Mann

Lance Mann

Paul Stewart.

Paul Stewart.

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

Dakotah Hooker

Dakotah Hooker

Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson

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Dakotah Hooker.

Dakotah Hooker.

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Paul Stewart.

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Javi Meza

Javi Meza

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

SUP finalists.

SUP finalists.

Grom finalists.

Grom finalists.

Girls finalists.

Girls finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Junior finalists.

Junior finalists.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina. It is great to see so many young surfers surfing and making friends south of the border. It is great for them to travel and make lots of friends up and down the coast. That is the true spirit of surfing.

A Trip to Todos Santos Island

A couple of day’s before Christmas we celebrated my oldest son’s 18th birthday with a day-trip out to Baja’s Todos Santos Island. It was a magical day in a very special place.

Israel.

Israel celebrating his 18th birthday.

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A cyclops wave.

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The lighthouse dominates the land and seascape.

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Because the waves come out of deep water, it is hard to see the sets coming until they break on you.

The wave at Todos Santos is a beauty.

The wave at Todos Santos is a beauty.

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That’s me on a fun one.

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My youngest son Daniel (15)  gets a set wave.

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One of the sets rolling through.

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Israel.

Israel and Daniel sharing a small one.

Israel and Daniel sharing a small one. It gives me great pleasure to watch my sons surf together.

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Daniel after a long day in the water.

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Israel after his birthday surf session. He’d been asking me to take him for a couple of years.

Tijuana-Ensenada Toll Road Alternative Route Update

Traffic backing up on the start of the descent just south of La Mision

Traffic backing up on the start of the descent just south of La Mision

For those of you wondering about the toll road closure from La Fonda to San Miguel (northern end of Ensenada). I traveled on the La Mision-San Miguel free road twice in the past week. Expect the trip to take 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. Don’t try to pass on curves, don’ expect to travel more than 25-35 mph on average. Just enjoy the scenery and be safe. Get used to it because we’ll all be traveling that road a lot.

The section of the toll road that collapsed. This was totally preventable.

The section of the toll road that collapsed. This was totally preventable.

 

My estimate is that 75% of the free road could be widened with little enviro-social-and economic impact within the existing highway/utility easement which is very wide. The exception is the La Mision section and hill which is incredibly dangerous anyway and areas near businesses and homes.

Truck accident just south of La Mision on what is one of the most dangerous curves on the entire transpeninsular highway.

Truck accident just south of La Mision on what is one of the most dangerous curves on the entire transpeninsular highway.


The fact is that the entire Ensenada community needs to pressure federal and state governments to quickly expand and make safer the free road and then seriously make an attempt to address the shocking underinvestment in upgrading the safety of the toll road area that collapsed. Anyone who traveled that road knew that authorities were making a less than stellar effort to improve the highway.

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

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Leño Contreras of Alfareria Contreras

After a trip to visit Finca Altozano in the Guadalupe Valley, we returned via Tecate and passed one of the many pottery stands along Highway 3. Pottery in Baja is one of those things that you assume has no real origin and is somehow magically made.

Anytime I find people who are creating things by hand in our rational, industrial and highly mechanized and computerized economy, I am filled with admiration (which is why I have interviewed so many custom surfboard craftsmen).

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But as we stopped to check out the pottery of Leño Contreras of Alfareria Contreras (Carr. Tecate-Ens 15 1/2 -Cerro Azul, Tecate), I realized that the art of turning clay from the hills into pottery is more than likely a dying tradition and is representative of long-standing cultural traditions that are pre-Hispanic in origin throughout Mexico and the Southwest.

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“We’ve been here since the early 1980s,” said Leño. “We gather the clay in the hills. In order to fire our kilns, we used to gather dead trees from a nearby forest, but the Forest Service stopped that. Now we buy recycled wood that is collected from the factories in Tijuana.”

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“The widening and improvement of the Highway has brought us more tourists, as has the tourism of the Guadalupe Valley. A few years ago when the economy was bad, things were not good. Now we’re doing better.”

Emily and I purchased some luna and sol wall hangings for our backyard. Now we have a nice reminder of our nice with visit with Leño.

Alfareria Contreras is on Highway 3 (Km 15 1/2) just about 10-15 minutes south of Tecate on the highway to Ensenada.

Todos Santos 1994

dedina:young BajaHere is a photo of me and my wife Emily  on Palm Beach in Todos Santos sometime in November 1994 with our dogs Julius and little Tecate (who was a “street dog” who came with the house we cared for). We  spent the previous year living in Laguna San Ignacio and Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos carrying out field research for our University of Texas at Austin doctoral dissertations in Geography on gray whale conservation (me) and the cultural ecology of fishing and eco-tourism (Emily).

Our stays in those amazingly hospitable and wonderful communities were followed by a month in La Paz to do interviews and carry out archival research and then another month in Mexico City to do the same.

After a great year in Mexico, we faced the prospect of returning to Austin to write up our research and work as teaching assistants (Emily) which is what smart grad students do (it is best to be near your committee members and advisor). Thanks to a series of encounters in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos with Kimberly and Ken who introduced us to Lee Moore, who then set us up with Roswitha Mueller (who owned a stunning 19th century home on the Plaza in Todos Santos) we ended up living in that emerging art colony and now-hipster village in southern Baja for a year.

For two literally penniless grad students it was a dream come true. The house overlooked the Palm-fringed coastline of Todos Santos. I dawn-patrolled each morning and after a long surf returned to the house where Emily and I shared breakfast and then sat down to the task of writing dissertations. After a long day of writing, we would retreat to Palm Beach for a walk with the dogs and to play in the waves.

I unwisely decided to write my dissertation as a book, which wasn’t a very strategic way of getting my committee to approve it (I later had to substantially modify the manuscript to make it more academic–which I should have done in the first place). My original manuscript later became my book, Saving the Gray Whale.

In retrospect making the decision to stay in Todos Santos was the smartest thing we have ever done. That year launched our careers in international conservation. After having discovered that ESSA (and its 49% partner) Mitsubishi planned to turn Laguna San Ignacio, a gray whale lagoon and Mexican federal protected area, into a 500,000-acre industrial salt harvesting facility, we joined up with Homero Aridjis and Betty Ferber of the Grupo de los Cien, to help launch a campaign against the project.

That initial effort turned into one of the largest ever international efforts to save a wild place that ended successfully when Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo cancelled the project in March, 2000.

Other things we did that year included convincing the School for Field Studies to open a study center in Bahia Magdalena and working to advise RARE on the launch of a very successful and ground-breaking eco-guide training program for whale guides in Bahia Magdalena and Laguna San Ignacio.

The most important part of the year is that Emily became pregnant with our oldest son Israel, and then got a job teaching geography at the University of Arizona. Despite my misgivings about living in Tucson (for a surfer, exile to the desert in Arizona is a slow death), in the end, I could never have launched my career in conservation without having lived there.

After completing my Ph.D. a year after we moved to Tuscon, The Nature Conservancy hired me to launch their Northwest Mexico Program. That profoundly gratifying, rewarding and educational experience  was the equivalent of attending Harvard Business School–but for Conservation. I was damn lucky to have worked there.

While at TNC, I helped to launch their still vibrant Baja California and Sea of Cortez Program and helped to launch successful initatives to preserve Loreto Bay National Park, Isla Espiritu Santo and Cabo Pulmo.

So that moment on the beach really was just before we became adults and understood that chasing dreams requires sacrifice, hard work, discipline, vision, and passion. We chose to do what was right for us, rather than please everyone else.  I also realized that if you want to get anything done, you can’t depend on anyone else to make it happen.

I will never forget our year in Todos Santos and how it changed our lives forever.

Celebrate the Best of Baja at the Baja Bash

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Join WILDCOAST on June 15, 2013, at the Port Pavilion in San Diego, as we host the 2nd Annual Baja Bash! This fundraising event will celebrate the best food, beer, and wine from both San Diego and Baja California, and highlight WILDCOAST’s conservational successes on both sides of our shared coastline.

 

This year we will be honoring lucha libre icon El Hijo del Santo as a defender of the ocean and marine life, as well as chef Javier Plascencia, for leading Baja’s gastronomic revolution, with a sustainable message. San Diego’s own and nationally recognized B-Side Players will be our featured musical guests.

 

The Baja Bash will bring together the best flavors of the region, as we feature 8 chefs from both sides of the border, including: (from San Diego) Flor Franco of Indulge Catering, Jason Knibb of NINE-TEN, Todd Nash from Blind Burro, Chad White of Plancha Baja Med, and (from Baja California), Drew Deckman of Deckman’s San Jose, Miguel-Angel Guerrero of La Querencia, and Javier Plascencia of Mision 19.

 

We will also feature beer courtesy of Stone Brewing Company, Green Flash Brewing Company and Cucapá, as well as a selection of regional wines, and the support of the Tijuana Culinary Art School.

 

Special thanks go to our sponsors: San Diego Gas & Electric, BAMKO, Seafood Watch, Sony Playstation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And thanks to our media sponsors, FM 94/9, Baja.com and The Mexico Report.

 

Tickets are $75 per person, including food, drinks, and entertainment, and are available at http://www.wildcoast.net or call us at (619) 423-8665 x200. Reserved tables are also available for groups of 8. Get your tickets today!

 

 

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