21 Years Fostering Leadership in Youth of the Upper Gulf

After more than two months of hard work, CEDO’s 21st Environmental Contest came to a close, with participation of approximately 1,000 students and teachers from ten communities in both the states of Sonora and Baja California in the Northern Gulf of California region.

The objective of these Environmental Contests, organized by the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), is to have the youth of Upper Gulf of California coastal communities analyze regional environmental problems and actively participate in the search for solutions.

This year was the fourth time the Environmental Contest focused on a search for alternatives to help achieve sustainable fisheries in the Northern Gulf of California. Current fishing practices have caused an alarming decline in fisheries resources and the deterioration of ecosystems, not only in this region but worldwide, affecting fisheries and species such as the totoabe and vaquita marina, both on the brink of extinction. With this goal, participants in the “Fishing for the Future: the Sea and the Table” contest developed interesting projects focused on solving fisheries related problems specific to their communities. The projects were enriched with ideas from local fishermen and from the “International Principals of Sustainable Fisheries”.  Student projects were evaluated by the following jury: Ms. María Luisa Valera, member of the Intercommunity Group of Coastal Fishermen of the Puerto Peñasco-Puerto Lobos Fisheries and Biological Corridor; Mr. Miguel Ahumada, in charge of the office of the Secretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the State of Baja California (SEPESCA) in San Felipe, BC; and Engineer Carlos Bonillas, representative of the Department of Fisheries Affairs of the City Council of Puerto Peñasco, Son.

The San Diego Zoo’s “Del Mar to the Mountains” environmental education program participated with CEDO for a second year to carry out this interesting project.   Since their education program has similar objectives to CEDO’s Environmental Contest, both organizations decided to work together to maximize our impact on the region’s youth.

On May 13, 2017, a lively Environmental Festival and Awards Ceremony was celebrated at the CEDO facilities in Puerto Peñasco. With some 300 people in attendance, students of participating teams presented their projects and were able to enjoy sharing experiences with the other school teams, while enjoying a cultural program featuring groups performing Norteña music, classical music, Polynesian dances, folk dance and hip-hop.

Participating and winning teams of the 21st Anniversary Environmental Contest were recognized at the award ceremony by a panel of prestigious representatives including the local government, members of the CEDO Board of Directors, members of the contest’s jury and 2016 contest winners, as well as CEDO’s Executive Director Peggy Turk Boyer (Tables 1 and 2). The first place teams, which stood out for their originality and effort, were: the Shark team, in the primary-secondary school category, who worked with the shark fishery; and in the high school category, the Ecological Patrol team whose project focused on the Gulf curvina fishery. A special recognition for best presentation was given to the Goldfishing team of San Felipe, B.C. for their project on the Gulf curvina. Each member of the 3rd place teams received a package of books, a backpack and a Contest T-shirt; the 2nd place teams received the same, as well as a one-year subscription to National Geographic Magazine; and first place winners received these prizes plus participation in a CEDO’s summer camp with visits to the region’s Natural Protected Area Parks and a trip to the San Diego Zoo. Winning teams also received support in the implementation of their projects.

Table 1. Winners of the 21st Environmental Contest in the Category “Elementary-Secondary Schools”

1st PLACE Los Tiburones Amistad Internacional No. 8 San Felipe, Baja California Shark
2nd PLACE Titanic’s Instituto Sonora Puerto Peñasco, Sonora Hake
3rd PLACE Los Defensores de los Recursos Pesqueros Secundaria Técnica No. 35 Ejido Plutarco Elías Calles, Caborca, Sonora Shrimp

Table 2. Winners of the 21st Environmental Contest in the Category “High Schools”

1st PLACE Patrulla Ecológica CETMAR No. 14 Puerto Peñasco, Sonora Gulf Corvina
2nd PLACE Nautilus COBACH San Felipe, Baja California Mackerel
3rd PLACE Los Delfines CETMAR No. 14 Puerto Peñasco, Sonora Geoduck Clam

What began as ideas to participate in the environmental contest are now turning into concrete actions to help solve some of the environmental problems of the region.  And these actions were developed and are being implemented by local youth who are becoming leaders in their communities and custodians of their natural resources.