Coastal-Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Management in the Puerto Peñasco to Puerto Lobos Fisheries & Biological Corridor

In a special management area of the northern Gulf of California known as the Puerto Peñasco to Puerto Lobos Biological & Fisheries Corridor, Sonora, Mexico, CEDO promotes and facilitates a Coastal-Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Ecosystem Management process with six coastal communities. Fishing is the primary economic activity in this Corridor, but tourism is also a strong economic driver in Puerto Peñasco, and is growing in the other communities offering new opportunities and challenges. Mining, agriculture, and energy-production represent other economic activities in this region. CEDO’s “Corridor Program” addresses the need to reduce growing conflicts surrounding the use of this unique ecosystem, namely by clarifying user-rights and achieving a viable and sustainable framework for ecosystem and fisheries management.

“For me, the Corridor Program represents an opportunity that we fishermen have long been waiting for. The purpose, I believe, of this project, is to ensure that all the traditional fishermen have the same opportunities and the same possibilities for accessing the same resources, projects, and subsidies, through sustainable, orderly and equal-opportunity fisheries. One of the advances we have had, thanks to this project, is coexistence and harmony that has been generated among the 6 communities that comprise the Corridor. Previously we had disputes, and there are some still, but they are minor. Within the group of representative fishermen, we see ourselves as a family, and communities are changing the way we look at one another…we share the same resources, the same environment, the same biodiversity. This project helps the individual fisherman, so that he always has a product to fish and is not solely reliant on what nature will provide from one day to the next, that is why I work so hard to encourage other fishermen to approach CEDO and inform themselves”

-Rey Oliver Gutiérrez, Representative of the Artisanal Fishermens’ Management Group

The Corridor Ecosystem, Species and Communities

The area selected for management for this pilot program represents a unique biological-fisheries system that runs along the northeastern coast of the Gulf of California, Sonora. The area includes Adair’s bay, within the buffer zone of the Upper Gulf of California/Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve to the north, and it extends in the south to Puerto Lobos.

The Corridor area and communities in relation to the Upper Gulf Reserve (above) and baseline geo-spatial data collected early in the Program (below)



The Corridor represents a unique ecosystem, especially important for fisheries. Biologically it is  characterized by a diversity of habitats that include rocky intertidal and submarine reefs, a small island archipelago (San Jorge Island), large areas of sandy and muddy bottom habitats, two large wetlands and bay systems, and riparian and pelagic habitats that sustain a great biodiversity and abundance of fisheries species. These interconnected habitats offer sites for feeding, growth, spawning and reproduction for the biodiversity in the region.


In the Corridor more than 45 species from different environments and seasons are exploited and commercialized. For practical purposes, however, 11 species of commercial importance were selected using community questionnaires, as priorities for management, and these will serve as proxies for other species with similar life history characteristics. Priority species include 3 invertebrates, 4 elasmobranchs, 4 bony fish (with several flounder species).

The species are outlined in the following table:

Common Name


Scientific Name

Pacific blue crab

Callinectes bellicosus
Caracol chino negro

Black murex

Hexaplex nigritus
Caracol chino rosa

Pink mouthed murex

Phyllonotus erythrostomus

Shovelnose guitarfish

Rhinobatos productus

Banded guitarfish

Zapterix exasperata
Tiburón Tripa

Brown smooth

Mustelus henlei

Pacific angelshark

Squatina californica

Bigeye croaker

Micropogonias megalops

Gulf Coney

Hyporthodus acanthistius

Paralabrax auroguttatus

Goldspotted sand bass


Varias especies



The Corridor is made up of six communities from two municipalities, whose principal economic sustenance is fishing.  Puerto Peñasco is the biggest of these communities; it also depends on tourism, an activity that is growing in the rest of the communities and is generating conflicts as well as opportunities for the users. The other five communities belong to the municipality of Caborca: Bahía San Jorge, Punta Jagüey, Santo Tomás, Desemboque de Caborca and Puerto Lobos. Despite the fact that all of these have their own particularity and vulnerability, these communities have ecological, social and economic attributes in common: ecosystems, currents, genetic connectivity of species, a shared fisheries office, species and fishing zones, buyers and others. (for a more detailed description of each community, see LINK TO 2016 TIDE CALENDAR).

Goals, Objectives, and Phases

The goal is to have an integrated plan that reduces conflicts and benefits biodiversity and communities, developed through participation of all actors, formalized by the government and being implemented by all economic sectors in this Corridor by 2020.

The program is being implemented in three phases:

2015-2017: Traditional users – small scale-fishers and local wetland users

2017-2018: Industrial and sport fishers

2017-2019: Tourism, energy, mining, agriculture

Phase I – Small Scale Fisheries and Local Wetlands Users

CEDO has been working with traditional users in the Northern Gulf for years, especially with wetland users and small scale fishers. In 2015 we approached these groups, who represent the least organized sectors and in the case of fisheries, the most important economic activity, about working together on an integrated solution to their problems.

General Objective:

By 2017 communities of the Corridor are implementing a Fisheries Ordering and Integrated Management Plan, designed through participatory processes and approved by SAGARPA that favors the production of biomass of primary commercial fisheries resources and maintains biodiversity of critical sites.

Specific Objectives:

(Click for more details)

In this process three groups, users, experts and authorities participate to define, formalize and implement management tools that offer solutions to the problems that they identified.

The Intercommunity Group of Small-scale Fishermen (GIR), elected by the communities, collects the concerns and proposals of their sector and brings them to the technical group (GT) of specialists and scientists who provide a framework, make adjustments and strengthen the proposals, so that they can be approved by the Intercommunity group and then later validated by government authorities. Once this process is done, the final proposal returns to the community to be validated.

To facilitate these processes and interactions between groups, a Base Group was formed that includes  CONAPESCA and INAPESCA (fisheries authorities) and CEDO staff, who coordinates and integrates the activities of each management group.

Participation in management of the Corridor is being promoted as a bottom-up process. It takes proposals from fishermen and after they are reviewed and adjusted for technical details, they are presented to authorities for analysis and implementation.

In 2016 the Intercommunity Group modified their bylaws to increase representation of the larger communities of Puerto Peñasco and Desemboque. They conducted the corresponding elections and today the group consists of 45 persons. Communities and the Intercommunity Group participated in 33 training sessions and 103 workshops in 2016 which helped them advance in the analysis of management tools.

Intercommunity Fisher Group (GIR) elected in 2015 when the project began. In fall 2016 the group elected members increasing its size to 45 to increase representation from Puerto Peñasco and Desemboque.

Dentro del Corredor, trabajamos también con las nuevas generaciones para garantizar un futuro sustentable.

To make good decisions for sustainable fisheries, build stewardship and create an integrated management plan and ordering of fisheries, all actors need to have a basic understanding of the system and management options available.  Capacity building is a basic element of this process, assuring that local stakeholders have the capacity to make informed decisions and to communicate about the process with other stakeholders.  Not only is it important for the fishers, wetland users and other direct stakeholders to be informed and involved, but the process is strengthened when the communities at large also become stakeholders of this ecosystem-based management process.

Capacity building programs have been conducted with the Intercommunity Group and include workshops on leadership, communication and other basic skills, as well as workshops and development of materials about specific management tools such as catch quotas, fisheries reserves, and others. Fishermen have also participated in field exchanges with other fishermen. Some workshops on management instruments have also been conducted in communities for all fishermen.

A communication campaign has also been implemented in each community with presentations made by fishermen on the radio, in social networks, and with the development of informative materials that are distributed in the communites. A billboard has been installed in each community as a vehicle for maintaining the community informed about the management process.

Between April 2015 and May 2016, 33 trainings were conducted in the region both with the Intercommunity Management group and in the communities, with 402 participants total.

Among the most important activities of the Intercommunity Group (GIR) is their participation with the CEDO technical team and other members of the technical group (GT) and the GN (government group) to analyze different management instruments for potential application in the Corridor.

The CEDO technical team compiled a database of over 200,000 geo-referenced records of distribution of fisheries species, biodiversity, fishing zones, areas of conflict and other economic activities in the Corridor. This data comes from a variety of sources including monitoring, workshops and interviews with fishermen, and literature.  It provides the scientific foundation for analysis of different management instruments and the base layers for maps for spatial management.  The analyses conducted focus on 11 priority species and four primary management instruments that help achieve spatial management and strengthening of fishermen’s rights: 1) Local community management areas (turfs),  2)  Fisheries refuges, 3) Fishing catch quotas (prioritizing species for management with catch limits), 4)  Fishing permits (regularization of fishing effort). Maps and other visual tools are generated using ZONATION and INVEST software programs and then were presented to the management team.

For fisheries refuges the GIR analyzed the proposed areas in two categories, as defined by the Mexican NOM-049-SAG/PESC-2014: areas recommended for total closure for all species for a period of five years and areas recommended for partial closure for particular species or gear types. After several workshops and incorporating feedback from the GT and the GN the results are very promising. The GIR has agreed to propose a network of 27 fisheries refuges (10 total and 17 partial) to their communities. This encompasses 103,050 hectares or 7.0% of the total area of the Corridor

Potential local management areas (turfs) were proposed for benthic and sessile species, including only the species fished by each community.  The proposed areas were studied, analyzed, and revised by fishermen from the GIR to create a final map, delineating exclusive fishing areas for the designated resources for each of the six communities of the Corridor.  Formalization of such areas could occur by obtaining a fishing concession, but this requires a level of organization nonexistent in most of these communities, with a few exceptions that are being followed up.  Though legal formalization is complicated, community representatives have already begun to appropriate the identified areas, generating a preliminary sense of community stewardship among members of the GIR.

Fishing quotas are used by the Mexican government to control extraction of biomass, so as not to exceed biological limits. Use of this tool however, requires some preliminary knowledge or estimate of the available biomass. The biology of a particular species and its management system are factors that should be considered. With data obtained from a community catch monitoring program and other biological monitoring efforts, CEDO used EDF’s Fisheries toolbox-FISHE, which combines an analysis of vulnerability (using the Productivity and Sustainability Analysis-PSA, developed by NOAA),  the Froeste indicators of sustainability and a length-frequency analysis,  and a study of management attributes (SEA SALT).  These results will be reviewed with INAPESCA and CONAPESCA to determine how quotas might be applied in an integrated management approach in the Corridor.

Permits: Regularization of fishing effort.  One of the goals of the project is to strengthen stewardship for good management by regularizing current activities, within biological limits of the species fished. With funding from CONAPESCA we have worked with fishermen and municipalities to document all boats and permits in the Corridor and to aid irregular boat owners to obtain needed documents to apply for permits.  In 2016, 22,154 catch records have been obtained from 37 community fishing logs generated by community monitors. With this information we have been able to calculate catch per unit effort, which will be used to help determine a sustainable fishing effort for each species.  A work group is being formed with CONAPESCA and INAPESCA to determine a process for regularizing current activities as part of an integrated plan that includes permits, possibly concessions, quotas, and fisheries refuges.

 Catch per unit effort by day per boat for priority species monitored in the Puerto Peñasco-Puerto Lobos, Corridor, Sonora with all communities combined. Data comes from CEDO’s catch monitoring program carried out in communities of the Corridor from 2010 to 2012 and from 2015 to 2016.  

The proposals for locally managed areas and fisheries refuges have been developed in collaboration with the Intercommunity Group and validated by their communities. Communities have also participated in fisheries monitoring and in registering their boats. There is general consensus on the results of each of these exercises.

With the overall goal of reducing spatial conflicts, strengthening stewardship, regularizing fishing effort and achieving sustainable use of resources, these management instruments will be combined to create an integrated plan for spatial-temporal management of fisheries in the Corridor (Figure 4).  The entire management team will analyze different alternative scenarios to evaluate costs, benefits, risks and ecosystem effects of each alternative. Once consensus is reached with the entire management team on the best combined scenario, a proposal will be presented to government authorities for legalizing the different instruments.  In order for this process to work a strong legal framework is needed to assure that communities and government are aligned and rights for fishing and use of space are clear.

Process for developing an integrated spatial-temporal fisheries management plan which incorporates tools reviewed by all stakeholders involved.

Because distinct economic sectors operate under different legal frameworks, it makes sense to work with one sector at a time and to proceed with formalizing the pertinent instruments for that activity.  For this process with small-scale fishermen, for example, we hope to have tangible legal results before the Mexican federal government changes hands in 2018.  Because we have meaningful engagement of actors, many management actions are already being implemented.  Other Coastal Marine Spatial planning processes involving multiple sectors have taken on the order of ten to twenty years to finalize plans. There is general frustration with such a long timeframe before any implementation takes place.  This project will integrate sectors sequentially.

Primary achievements in 2016:
  • We consolidated a multi-sectorial management team including communities (COM), an intercommunity fishermen group (GIR), technical experts (GT) and government authorities (GN)
  • More than 103 meetings were held with communities and the Intercommunity Group (GIR) to propose management actions; 22 meetings with the GN and 8 with the GT.
  • The Intercommunity Group updated their bylaws for operations and decision-making, and increased the size of the group from 28 to 45, to give greater representation to larger communities (Puerto Peñasco and Desemboque).
  • The Intercommunity Group and communities have participated in 33 workshops and training sessions with over 402 participants (from April 2015 to May 2016) to build capacity in leadership, communication, management instruments and good fishing practices.
  • Workshops were held in the communities to identify and analyze feasibility of economic alternatives to diversify fishing in the Corridor.
  • We developed a complete listing of fishermen, boats and permits in use in the Corridor and helped fishermen register their boats.
  • We continued a community monitoring program in six communities, with collection of biological and fisheries data on all the catch and calculated catch per unit effort as a first step towards permit application.
  • The management groups have developed preliminary management proposals for local management areas and fisheries refuges.
  • We analyzed existing data to prioritize species that could be managed with quotas to share with authorities.

Phase II – Industrial and Sport Fishers

Once the management proposals of the small-scale fishing sector are consolidated and evaluated by the government, other fisheries sectors, recreational and industrial fishers, will be integrated into the coastal-marine spatial planning process.

Sport fishing is an ongoing activity in two communities, Puerto Peñasco and Puerto Lobos. This sector has already been approached. A workshop was held to identify their interest in the project and the conflicts they face in the use of the Corridor space.  Each community elected representatives to participate in an intersectorial process.

Industrial fishers are a well-organized sector, with most boats belonging to the National Fishing Industry Commission (CONAPESCA). They fish in the Corridor and have strong interests.  Initial contact has been made at local and national levels to present the project.

Phase III – Tourism, Mining, Energy, and Agriculture

The Corridor program is envisioned as an integrated coastal-marine spatial planning and management process. This means that all actors and stakeholders with interests and activities in the Corridor area must be involved to address common interests and possible conflicts in the use of the area.   Tourism is an important pillar of the economy at Puerto Peñasco, and is present and growing in other communities too.  Mining and agriculture are alternative economic activities that support families in at least three communities. Alternative energy is a potential in the region, and plans are being made now for future development.

It is imperative that these activities continue and develop in an orderly way. All sectors using the Corridor should understand and respect existing rights and activities of local communities to access their resources and participate in supporting and maintaining the Corridor as a healthy ecosystem.  In this way all the stakeholders will share in the many benefits and services that will come from a  well-planned,  well-managed and healthy ecosystem.

7Oct, 2019

Saving the Sea Lions of San Jorge

Authored by Alan R. Berman, Edited by Nélida Barajas Acosta

One of CEDO’s current projects in Sea of Cortez involves the management of San Jorge Island, part of the “Islands of the Gulf of California United […]

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