In 2018, CEDO’s New Year’s Resolution is to double our efforts and better communicate the exciting and unprecedented work that we are doing in the northern Gulf of California, and beyond, to our friends, followers, and supporters. We are moving fast and leaving wakes, so read on and don’t get left behind!

The famous whale skeleton at CEDO in Puerto Peñasco (Photo from CEDO archives)

Let’s start with the basics; CEDO, the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans, is a non-profit organization, operating both in the U.S. and Mexico, with the mission of fostering vibrant communities and resilient ecosystems. We tackle pressing socio-economic and environmental problems by integrating people with knowledge and solutions. Namely, we are helping coastal communities on the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, to better manage their marine and coastal resources. We work primarily with artisanal, or small-scale, fishermen, and also with the wider coastal community, as well as with students, teachers, scientists, businesspeople and decision makers on both sides of the border. CEDO believes in building bridges, not walls, and our programs include environmental education, capacity building, collaborative research and monitoring (with fishermen and local people), and “ecosystem management” through collective action. Ecosystem management refers to a holistic process that takes into account individual species as well as habitats, natural processes, and human communities with unique needs.

Fishermen gather for a collaborative meeting (Photo from CEDO archives)

CEDO’s working table is round, and has a place open for all the people whose participation is needed to improve ecosystem management in the northern Gulf of California, including representatives of conservation, government, large-scale industry and big fisheries, small-scale fisheries, and economic and community development. Through our leadership, these representatives are able to do much more than talk, and continuous, transparent interchange of knowledge and ideas, together with having the best available science at hand, is charting the course for greater sustainability in northern Gulf fisheries and other industries such as mining, coastal development, and tourism. By fostering and working closely with government representatives we are able to actualize accords and place them into a nationally recognized legal framework. This “bottom-up” approach is more successful than previous “top-down” efforts because it takes into account the experiences and visions of the people whose willing and enthusiastic participation is needed for real and lasting change to take hold. As our director, Peggy Turk Boyer likes to say, “CEDO goes deep.”

A commercial hookah diver gets ready to plunge (Photo from CEDO archives)

This year, CEDO is undertaking two comprehensive, ecosystem-wide programs in the Northern Gulf of California, with actions being implemented at the local, regional and national level. Along the coast of Sonora, MX, in a biologically and socio-economically cohesive region that we call the “Puerto Penasco to Puerto Lobos Biological and Fisheries Corridor,” CEDO is working with six artisanal fishing communities to better manage their diverse and economically significant fisheries.

Murex snail fishermen at work (Photo from CEDO archives)

Meanwhile, along the Baja California coast, CEDO is working within the context of the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve, and the pivotal conservation issues surrounding the endangered vaquita marina porpoise (Phocoena sinus) and totoaba fish (Totoaba macdonaldi). CEDO feels it is paramount to act now to save the vaquita and totoaba from extinction, AND we recognize the need to address the social and economic hardships that are at the root of this multi-faceted problem; if we want fishermen to get on board with conservation-based programs, we must first understand their needs and be able to convince them of a hopeful and dignified future. This is why CEDO has hired a social anthropologist to “go deep,” and identify the best paths forward.

Bahia Adair, a protected estuary and wetland (Photo by Hita Tovar, from CEDO archives)

What our two regional programs have in common, is that they both apply a framework of “Coastal Marine Spatial Planning,” a process in which conservation goals aim to overlap with socio-economic and development goals, for example by strengthening user rights, establishing community management areas, and creating fisheries refuges. Also, both programs address the compounding impacts of poorly managed and unregulated fisheries and the burgeoning impacts of climate change on entire ecosystems. Finally, both programs seek to conserve commercially and ecologically important species, whether they are celebrities like the vaquita, or overlooked, but nonetheless crucial species like the jaiba, or swimming crab.

A swimming crab is measured for reproductive age (Photo from CEDO archives)

CEDO’s ability to apply over three decades of experience in order to effectively adapt to unique and rapidly shifting ecological, economic and political scenarios, in combination with our staff’s passion and dedication to the people, plants, animals and habitats of the northern Gulf of California, make us the right people to take on this crucial work. We look forward to keeping you posted with regular updates about our progress to mitigate the impacts of climate change, build more sustainable fisheries, foster healthier and happier coastal communities, and protect the marine and coastal ecosystems that we all love and depend on.

We invite you to sign up to our monthly email newsletter and our English and/or Spanish Facebook page, and from all of us at CEDO, we wish you a Happy and Productive New Year!