Baja - Is the Sea of Cortez dying? We must protect our oceans...
The Baja peninsula - a land mass separated from the mainland of Mexico by the waters of the Gulf of California, and more commonly known as the Sea of Cortez. The peninsula itself is 775 miles long and an environmental wonder with four distinct desert areas and coastal towns ranging from sleepy villages to the famed, Cabo St. Lucas.
While this vacation destination seems an idyllic spot, troubles brew south of the border. Once pristine waters filled with abundant fish life have dwindled dramatically and the waters are dying.
But what is the cause for this rapid decline? Who is responsible? The answers are complicated but this much is known. Destructive fishing practices beginning in the 1940's with over harvesting of shrimp, disregard for Mexican laws, foreign vessels, the use of long lines with thousands of hooks, and gill netting. This wanton destruction has led to job loss and difficulties for young people seeking employment. There are those who blame Mexican president, Carlos Salinas, who deregulated fishing. The effect of that deregulation unleashed a flotilla of an estimated 12,000 boats venturing into the Sea of Cortez in search of fish to fill their holds.
But it is not just the fish at issue in this ever expanding dilemma. Other sea life has also been impacted by the ripple of cause and effect. Whale Shark and Manta Ray sightings have decreased dramatically. Striped Marlin are being fished at twice their sustainable rate. Sea turtles caught in nets drown and their population continues to decline. The tourist business, particularly fishing, is suffering simply because anglers cannot catch fish as in years past.
It seems that we as a species are more worried about what we can take right now as opposed to conserving resources and letting nature replenish the seas. Unfortunately, Mexico is just another in the long list of places with similar problems.
It is not too late at the moment. These problems can be reversed but it takes a willingness on the parts of all involved, and it will take time. We must learn the lesson that protecting our oceans and maintaining a healthy balance is the key to our future.
You can read about Bryson McGann and NESSA's solution in Caribbean Agenda. The truth is out there!