Sylvia Earle and the Mission Blue teamÂ were deeply honored to spend the morning of February 27th with Eduardo Martinez, director of Fundacion Teleton.Â ThisÂ Mexican nonprofit worksÂ with disabled people–likeÂ the three Mexican teens named Fausto, Roberto and Salma who came along to dive with Dr. Earle–their first ever dive in the ocean!Â Dr. Earle expressed directly to these newly coronated divers herÂ deepest admiration for their courage. The ocean, truly, is for everyone and we have Fausto, Roberto and Salma to look at for proof.
In a vibrant display of youthful enthusiasm, Mission Blue and the CaboÂ Youth Center also took nearly 30 local children snorkeling with Dr. Sylvia Earle. Many thanks go to ScubaPro for donating the masks, fins and snorkels to the youth of Cabo Pulmo. The snorkel kits will now reside at the Cabo Youth Center where local children can check them out like library books and explore the ocean in their spare time.
2. Sharks Are In Trouble
(Bahia Los Frailes inÂ Cabo Pulmo Marine Park)
On February 27th 2016,Â the Mission Blue team was greeted by a dismal sightÂ as we arrived at Bahia Los Frailes inÂ Cabo Pulmo Marine Park: strewn across the beach were the hacked carcasses of approximately 20 sharks of several species.Â Sitting on the sand was a box full of shark fins, no doubt destined for Asian markets. How can shark slaughter happen in aÂ marine park that is purportedly “no-take”?Â Carlos Ramon Godinez Reyes, Director of the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park (CONANP), was with us and questioned the fishermen. They produced a permit and asserted that these sharks had been fished outside of the prohibited boundaries of the park. But how could this be verified? It couldn’t. The annual operating budget of the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park is roughly $20,000, according to Mr. Godinez Reyes, making comprehensive enforcement all the more challenging. The issue of shark fishing is complex, on both a conservation and social level, but Dr. Earle said it best as she gazed at the dead sharks: “I’m just as worried about legal fishing as illegal fishing.”
Indeed, from wherever these sharks were harvested, the fact remains that shark populations have plummeted in the Gulf of California to the point where a local shark biologist, Dr. James Ketchum, is saying hammerheads are “ecosystem extinct,”Â i.e. there are a few around you’d be lucky to see, but for all intents and purposes, they are no longer a real part of the ecosystem due to low numbers. Studies done in Mexico and elsewhere in the world have concluded that a shark alive in the water is worth anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million dollars through ecotourism and ecosystem services. We will have full video coverage of the shark finning we found in Cabo Pulmo coming next week. Stay tuned.
3. Marine Protected Areas Work… And We Need More
On February 26th, the Mission Blue expedition team received a full briefing from Dr. James Ketchum, a shark biologist and lead atÂ Pelagios KakunjÃ¡, a nonprofit shark research organization based in La Paz, BCS, Mexico. Dr. Ketchum pointed to encouraging data, such as the 400% rebound in fish biomass since Cabo Pulmo was declared a no-take marine protected area 20 years ago. However, through analysis of his telemetry data, he also noted that some shark populations were barely registering and had migratory routes that were relatively unknown. In a broader sense, Dr. Ketchum’s research shows that marine protected areas are not enough; sensible conservation also calls for the creation of protected migratory corridors. What good is a marineÂ protectedÂ area if a female shark goes there and gets fertilized, but then is slaughtered when she leaves the zone to give birth? To get the full skinny on Dr. Ketchum’s research and the amazing work his non-profit performs in the Gulf of California Hope Spot, watch the video above.
4.Â Community Drives Success in the Creation of Protected Areas
(A special thanks goes to dive master Pilu for her leadership.)
We came across it over and over again in talking with the community of Cabo Pulmo: real passion for the Marine Park and a clear understanding that by protecting it, the community is guaranteeing a sustainable future of natural beauç±ä¸æµ·ååå¯¹å¯¹ç¢°ç±æå·