Protection and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Gulf of California
Title: Protection and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Gulf of California
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Partner: National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
Overall term: 2012 to 2017
The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez or Mar de Cortés) is a marine and coastal region populated by an extraordinarily large number of rare animal and plant species. Marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau called this important ecoregion ‘the aquarium of the world’. However, de-cades of efforts to put a stop to increasing overfishing and environmental destruction have had limited success to date. The measures often only worked selectively and failed to involve key actors.
Marine and coastal biodiversity in the Gulf of California is protected and biological resources are used more sustainably.
The project team works closely with three regional directorates of Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and with protected-area authorities in the Gulf of California. Representatives of the local population are involved in key decision-making processes.
In recent decades, the Government of Mexico has established 18 natural protected areas in the Gulf of California that are managed by the three regional directorates. The project brings protected-area administrations together in a cooperation network. The responsible parties exchange lessons learned, coordinate their activities and receive training on innovative methods. For instance, this work includes standardised procedures to evaluate the ecological status of protected areas so that findings are com-parable from one protected area to another – an important step for prioritising protection measures. Staff working in the protected areas are also trained on managing sustainable tourism in protected areas and on planning visitor numbers and limiting access to these areas. Moreover, parts of the national parks’ equipment have been modernised.The private sector and civil society have already implemented a large number of projects, too, but these have never been documented. The project explores positive approaches to the sustainable use and protection of marine and coastal biodiversity and identifies models that can easily be replicated in other locations in the region. All actors are involved in implementing the initiatives. The creation of special use zones, i.e. zones with restricted usage that border existing protected areas, is also import-ant for protecting biodiversity. The project creates the conditions needed to designate new special use zones and protected areas. This requires close coordination with governmental and non-governmental organisations, users and residents of the areas. The project team supports decision-makers and other key representatives from the environmental, fishery and tourism sectors and local communities in working under the leadership of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas to formulate a joint long-term vision for conservation and sustainable use in the region. This provides the foundation for arranging activities, raising awareness, fostering knowledge management and developing financing strategies.
Protected-area administrations have jointly developed strategy plans and regularly review the pro-gress of their projects together. In 2014 the project organised an exhibition where more than 200 par-ticipants presented almost 70 models for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in the Gulf of California. Fifteen successful models have now been selected that are particularly suitable for broad-based transfer within the region. A detailed implementation plan has been developed for five potential new protected areas. Moreover, the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas has applied for 1,200 km of coastline and 16,000 hectares of flooding areas to be designated for nature conservation, for instance protecting sensitive sections of beaches so that turtles can lay their eggs. The project disseminates knowledge, lessons learned and positive examples through active public relations work, a website and videos.