By Peggy J. Turk Boyer. Peggy is the Executive Director at CEDO and the driving force behind all of our programs.
December 15, 2017
Dear friend of CEDO,
Angeles Sánchez, one of CEDO’s ~25 dedicated staff members, recalls the story of an elder woman from the San Jorge Bay fishing community asking a group of local children, “Since God created the animals and plants, whose responsibility do you think it is it to care for them?” The children pondered the question and together answered, “Ours!” Then one child added, “and CEDO’s!” In this charming moment, Angeles came to appreciate that dedicated people like her, and other CEDO staff, who have focused so much time and energy for the benefit of communities, are succeeding in fostering a tangible sense of hope and stewardship where it is most direly needed.
At the close of 2017, we at CEDO, the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans have many reasons to feel grateful, and our collaborators, partners, friends, and supporters are at the top of our list. Generosity surrounding our recent Building Campaign enabled us to make much needed repairs to the CEDO field station, where we share the marvels of the Sea of Cortez with countless visitors, young and old, through camps, eco-tours, natural history talks, community forums, and daily conversations.
It is from these headquarters in Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), a tourism destination and artisanal fishing community in the northern Gulf of California, that CEDO works to help make local communities more resilient to the challenges ahead. This is best done by working from within communities and encouraging fishermen, students, and community leaders to better manage and care for the marine and coastal ecosystems on which they depend.
CEDO began working in northern Gulf of California communities in 1980, building capacity, generating needed information, and co-designing the best ways to manage resources and ecosystems; needless to say, our roots run deep. We have been doggedly persistent in fostering a more transparent and functional fisheries management system that will provide local communities with hope for a dignified and sustainable future.
The Puerto Peñasco to Puerto Lobos Corridor in Sonora, Mexico:
CEDO’s flagship program is making great strides into 2018. We have brought together six fishing communities along the Sonoran coast, in addition to government workers and key industry stakeholders. These representatives are now working together with scientists and other specialists from CEDO to build the foundations for realistic and effective management. With unprecedented initiative, fishermen are being pro-active about recording their catch, compiling complete lists of active fishing boats and permits, defining community fishing areas, and establishing networks of protected areas called Fisheries Refuge Zones. In these clearly defined zones, some, or preferably all, fishing effort is prohibited for at least 5 years, allowing specific commercial stocks to recover together with the ecosystems on which they depend. Community support, robust scientific information, and adequate enforcement will be essential to the success of these fisheries refuges.
Like many of the word’s oceans, the Gulf of California suffers from a “Tragedy of the Commons,” scenario, where everyone takes the opportunity to exploit it, but few to care for it. By strengthening and clarifying the rights and obligations of fishermen, and other resource users, while making them more aware of the role of the ecosystem (species, habitats and natural processes) in supporting these resources, CEDO is actively fostering social and economic incentives for environmental stewardship. By insisting on transparency, equal participation, and collaboration in this process, CEDO is able to produce the needed data, AND build the capacity and political-will needed to create a robust management system. We work at a local, regional, and national level, such that the well-informed decisions made on-the-ground by fishermen, collaborating with scientists and other stakeholders, can become legally binding.
Meanwhile, in the northern Gulf of California:
Along the northern Gulf coast of Baja California, accidental catch and mortality of the Gulf Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena sinus), or vaquita, has pushed the scientific community to last-resort measures. In November, a team of international scientists and experts spent one month attempting to capture a few of the remaining 30 odd vaquita individuals for a breeding program. This strategy has worked for other dissimilar species in the past, but the vaquita is uniquely timid; both the animals they caught were released after showing stress, and tragically, one adult female died shortly after. While the VaquitaCPR Program is being re-assessed, CEDO is strengthening our work in the towns of San Felipe and Golfo de Santa Clara, where traditional fishing methods, namely gill-netting for fin fish and shrimp, too often result in accidental catch of the endangered porpoise, despite the fact the the majority of fishermen in these communities have and will never see a vaquita alive or dead.
If we are to save the vaquita, along with the endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi, a large, illegally-fished drum-fish being targeted in the vaquita habitat with gill-nets for a highly lucrative black market in China), CEDO needs to be able to effectively guide fishermen in these communities to change gear-types and develop alternative livelihoods. Financial incentives given to SOME fishermen, as compensation for not being allowed to fish, have bought a little time for the vaquita, but fishermen’s deep-seated reservations about the ever-changing nature of restrictions and regulations, on top of lacking enforcement measures, will continue to counter long-term conservation outcomes.
In order to achieve positive results in this complex system, and move past the false perception that people’s livelihoods need be at odds with the survival of endangered species, like the vaquita and totoaba, we must first understand, and then work closely with the people involved. CEDO has hired a social anthropologist to help us understand the social context, assess community needs, develop partners – both within the communities and in government, and identify the best paths forward.
We genuinely believe that knowledge, integrity, and hope, are the most powerful and lasting incentives for positive “sea change.” We also believe that:
- Empowering fishing communities can fuel marine conservation.
- Thriving economies and a healthy ecosystems are not mutually exclusive.
- Multi-faceted challenges require integrated solutions.
- It is mutually beneficial to recognize, respect, and leverage the social, economic, and biological interconnections between the United States and Mexico.
- Building on 38 years of proven experience makes sense.
If you agree, please consider investing with CEDO and becoming a sustaining member. Your monthly contribution will create real solutions in the Gulf of California and help the people, animals, plants and habitats of this globally unique region; can you think of a better investment?
Thank you very much for your continued commitment to CEDO’s vision for
“Thriving Coastal Communities, Sustainable Livelihoods and Resilient Ecosystems!”
Happy Holidays and we hope to see many of you at CEDO soon,
Peggy Turk Boyer
Executive Director, CEDO Intercultural