WILDCOAST INAUGURATES PHOTO EXHIBIT IN CUBA, “CONSERVATION TREASURES OF MEXICO”

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In July, WILDCOAST partnered with the Embassy of Mexico of Cuba and Patrimonio Comunidad y Medio Ambiente to inaugurate a photo exhibit at the Sala de Diversidad in Havana, Cuba. The exhibit that will run through the September highlights the conservation success stories of WILDCOASTDSC_0206 in Mexico featuring stunning images by Claudio Contreras, Dr. Octavio Aburto of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Miguel Angel de la Cueva and Ralph Lee Hopkins. Photos featured globally significant sites that WILDCOAST works to conserve including Cabo Pulmo, Oaxaca, Bahia Magdalena and Valle de los Cirios Pacific Coast. On hand to open the exhibit were Executive Director Serge Dedina, Mexico Director Eduardo Najera and Communications and Policy Director Fay Crevoshay.DSC_0207

“We are grateful to the Embassy of Mexico in Cuba for sponsoring this exhibit and their role in fostering international cooperation to help preserve the world-class coastal and marine ecosystems in Mexico and to partner with the Cuban National Park Service to assist in the preservation of world-class coral reefs and mangrove lagoons,” said Dedina. “This was an incredible opportunity to highlight our work and we were so pleased that Ana Lourdes Soto Perez, President of Patrimonio Comunidad y Medio Ambiente agreed to host the exhibit in the Sala de Diversidad in Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”


IMG_1329The WILDCOAST exhibit is being showcased to the growing numbers of  tourists who visit Old Havana which now officially includes Americans, due to the recent opening of relationsbetween the U.S. and Cuba. “We were very happy to work with the Mexican government to highlight the conservation successstories in Mexico to help increase awareness in Cuba about the importance of continuing to preserve globally important coral reefs. Sites like Jardines de la Reina in Cuba, like Cabo Pulmo in Mexico, are considered among the world’s most successful marine reserves. It is important to continue to collaborate internationally together to help preserve them.” 

As part of the trip to Cuba, WILDCOAST staff presented papers at the International Congress on Conservation and Sustainable Development in Havana. Then they visited Guanahacabibes National Park in the southwest corner of the island, which includes the pristine Maria la Gorda coral reef. “It was amazing to dive the reef and see how pristine it is,” said Najera. During their visit, WILDCOAST staff met with high level Cuban National Park Service officials as well as a visiting delegation of officials from the NOAA and the U.S. National Park Service. 

Thanks to the support of a generous donor, WILDCOAST is launching a Cuba Conservation Initiative to support efforts to preserve globally important coastal and marine ecosystems in Cuba. “Our first effort will be to bring Cuban park staff from Guanahacabibes to Cabo Pulmo to learn

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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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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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WILDCOAST IMPACT 2013

WILDCOAST impact

Thanks to my great staff, board members and our partners, WILDCOAST had a banner year. You can make a difference and preserve the coast and ocean by donating to WILDCOAST here.

Living Coastal

I was honored to have been asked to write the foreward to coastal lifestyle guru Jolee Pink’s new book, Living Coastal. It is a great tome with lots of great ideas for keeping it beachy at home and everywhere you go. You can purchase Living Coastal here:

 

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Miracle at Cabo Pulmo

In a small coastal community tucked away in a corner of Baja’s East Cape is Cabo Pulmo.

Cabo Pulmo

Cabo Pulmo (Photo credit: jeffgunn)

This seaside paradise inhabited by friendly fishermen and a colorful group of expatriates is ground zero for efforts to restore the ocean.

If in Cabo Pulmo, local fishermen can work with biologists, conservationists, divers and government park staff to make a marine reserve that is a global model for the protection of a marine ecosystem and fisheries, than our conservation efforts are on the right track.

I was in Cabo Pulmo last week to review efforts to preserve Cabo Pulmo from development threats. A Spanish company had proposed building a new city larger than Los Cabos adjacent to the reef.

My colleagues and I discussed future strategies needed to improve the protection of the coral reef that is home to humpback whales, sea turtles, manta rays, schools of giant fish and a growing population of sharks, including the elusive and docile whale shark.

“There really is nothing else in the Gulf of California like Cabo Pulmo,” said Dr. Octavio Aburto, a research scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has studied Cabo Pulmo for years.

“Our family noticed that the reef and fish and Cabo Pulmo were not doing well,” said Judith Castro, the daughter of a fisherman and a longtime resident.

The Castro family has lived in Cabo Pulmo for generations. But by the early 1990s the fish were disappearing and, due to climate change, there were fears that the global wave of coral bleaching would forever damage the reef.

Breaching Mobula ray Schools of giant bat rays...

Breaching Mobula ray

I first visited Cabo Pulmo in 1996 as the founding director of The Nature Conservancy’s Sea of Cortez Program. Back then I attempted to develop a conservation program to manage the newly established national park at Cabo Pulmo.

But due to political conflicts, conservation efforts at Cabo Pulmo initially failed. Marine biologists who had studied Cabo Pulmo and had advocated for the development of the marine reserve were desperate.

It took a few years, but by 1999 conservationists, marine biologists, fishermen and the Mexican government came together to support a no-take reserve at Cabo Pulmo. Local fishermen, including the Castro family who had fished the waters of the region for decades, agreed to give up fishing inside the reserve.

“Our family had to learn to dive,” Judith said. Her family now runs a dive operation.

Ten years later Aburto and his Scripps team confirmed what marine biologists had only dreamed about, but that local fishermen and divers already knew was happening: The fish have returned to Cabo Pulmo. The reef is teeming with life.

“Fish biomass increased 460 percent over a decade, but even more critically the predator population increased over 1000 percent,” Aburto said.  “And abundant predators are key to healthy marine ecosystems.”

“No other marine reserve in the world has shown such a fish recovery,” he said. “There are so many fish that species like tuna are coming from outside the reserve to feed around the reef.”

Last year I went diving more than a mile from the Cabo Pulmo shore and was amazed by the schools of huge fish that hugged the reef. In my more than 25 years working in the Baja California peninsula, I had never encountered so many large fish.

Even sharks, whose slaughter and decline has alarmed marine biologists and conservationists, have returned to Cabo Pulmo.

“You can stand on the rocks at the end of Bahia de los Frailes at the western end of the reserve and see schools of sharks swimming around,” said Sofia Gomez, my WiLDCOAST colleague who is coordinating our Cabo Pulmo conservation program.

With additional recent good news from California’s Central Coast about the increase in marine species in marine protected areas, there is reason to be hopeful that we can reserve the decline of the ocean and the species within it.

Marine explorer and conservationist Sylvia Earle has called Cabo Pulmo a “Hope Spot” because of its importance in demonstrating that we can restore our oceans.

I am just glad that there is at least one place left where the ocean is as it is supposed to be—filled with fish and undisturbed by man.

How WiLDCOAST Saves the Coast and Ocean

Here’s our newest PSA on the efforts of WiLDCOAST to preserve the coast and ocean. I’ll be showing this on Tuesday during my luncheon talk at the Blue Ocean Film Festival on Monterey.

Victory in Cabo Pulmo

President Calderon’s announcement yesterday on Twitter that he was cancelling the Cabo Cortes project that would have destroyed the Cabo Pulmo coral reef in Baja.

Yesterday I  spent the morning at the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beach, Morro Ayuta beach in Oaxaca, Mexico. The area is largely cut off from communications.

After picking up my son in Barra de la Cruz where he had spent the week with a local family, my WiLDCOAST team and I returned to our hotel in Huatulco and were greeted with the news that Mexico‘s President Felipe Calderon had cancelled the Cabo Cortes project that would have destroyed the Cabo Pulmo coral reef.

upon hearing the amazing news of the cancellation of Cabo Cortes by President Calderon.

WiLDCOAST has spent the past two years mountain a campaign to stop the Cabo Cortes project. We brought the issue international attention and organized people in the streets of Los Cabos and the East Cape. We made it a truly grassroots and global campaign.

Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park is considered the world’s most important marine conservation area–fish have rebounded there by more than 460% since fishing was banned in 1999.

My favorite part of the campaign was our finale–where we worked with Napanda-a freestyle rapper and graffiti artist to work with students in Los Cabos and La Paz to pain Save Cabo murals. In addition we placed two billboards in La Paz.

I have an amazing team at WiLDCOAST and I am lucky they did such a great job of working passionately and tirelessly to bring attention to the plight of Cabo Pulmo and additionally work with the Mexican government to conserve the federal coastal save of the park through federal conservation concessions.

And thanks to all of our supporters for helping us to conserve a world-class ocean ecosystem and proving that you have to fight hard to make conservation a reality.

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