Preserving Biodiversity in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico
The Sea of Cortez is home to a wide range of unique marine animal and plant life. Fishing, a primary source of employment and income for local communities, and nature-based tourism and other industrial activities offer important opportunities for economic development. However, heavy over-fishing of shrimp and the unintentional “by-catch” of fishermen threatens the sustainability of the fishing industry as well as marine biodiversity. For every pound of shrimp caught, 9.7 pounds of other marine wildlife, such as starfish, seahorses, rays, and baby fish are killed. As a result of unevenly enforced fishing regulations, the harbour porpoise (phocoena sinus), commonly known as la vaquita, faces extinction, with the remaining 500 left in the world located in the upper Gulf Region.
In cooperation with local partner “Noroeste Sustentable,”Partners for Democratic Change and Partners-Mexico have launched a program that convenes stakeholders to reach and implement environmentally sustainable economic initiatives by training stakeholders in negotiation, consensus-building, and other skills to improve their capacity to collaborate. Building upon this training, Partners-Mexico convenes and facilitates problem-solving forums among diverse stakeholders, including local fishermen, environmental NGOs, corporations, and municipal, state, and national government to reach agreements on how to solve complex environmental issues affecting the Gulf. The objective of these forums is dual: to reach agreement among stakeholders and establish concrete systems for compliance backed by mechanisms for enforcement and monitoring of agreements. The process is designed to create long-term, sustainable agreements that will positively impact the environment, civic culture, trust between stakeholders, and economic and social development.
These outcomes will in turn pave the way for a long-term solution, a Regional Pact for Sustainable Development of the Gulf. This pact will create a legal mechanism to address pressing economic and environmental sustainability issues with measurable goals, deadlines, and independent monitoring. The current series of fora is engaging stakeholders to address the protection of la vaquita. These fora focus on implementing general agreements already agreed upon by the stakeholders. They are establishing a permanent monitoring system in three regions in the upper gulf to prevent illegal fishing, vaquita deaths, and the elimination of dangerous fishing nets. Other series of fora will focus on topics which may include sustainable fishing and alternative livelihoods in La Paz Bay and the Colorado River Delta restoration.