Baja in the time of Covid

It’s true for all of us – worldwide – global. Life as we knew it changed with rise of an invisible, silent, and killer virus transmitted between humans by vaporous breath.

Baja did not go unscathed, but at the time of this writing, my sweet “Pueblo Magico” of Loreto, has survived with zero cases. The population has maintained its physical health through many of the same strategies practiced in other parts of the world: social distancing, mask wearing, and for those entering town, temperature taking and confirmation of residency. A cadre of devoted volunteers insured that the local hospital was fully supplied with masks and PPEs, should the need for treatment arise.

Airlines stopped carrying passengers in and out of Loreto in April, but now, come June, weekly flights are again scheduled. Alaska Airlines has added Saturday only flights, and those are carefully booked to provide distancing between passengers. It is my understanding that masks must be worn from check-in to disembarkation. Seems smart to me.

Loreto, like the bulk of cities and towns in Mexico that depend on tourism, has been badly hurt economically. Food drives developed through grants and donations provided both locally, and under the aegis of the International Community Foundation, have assisted with keeping food in the mouths of the most affected and needy. Eco-Alianza de Loreto, through the overwhelming support of their donors, initiated a voucher program, that will continue to provide much needed assistance throughout the summer.

June in Loreto. Restaurants slowly begin to offer more than take-out service, and shops other than grocers open their doors, while everyone looks toward a change in the season.

Sultry morning hunter ……..

Hot and sultry – those are the marks of summer on the Sea of Cortez, the fishing shifts to those species that like warmer water: yellowtail, dorado, marlin, wahoo. Seabirds move more slowly. Life is steady and calm. Easy days on the hammock for reading material consumption. Cold beverages in the afternoon.

Slowly, we inch toward our new normalcy.

Hopefully, we will remember some of the insights gained by being forced to stay still. Hopefully, we have expanded our ability to hold open our hearts, increase our empathy and personal understanding of both our frailty and our strength. Hopefully, we are ever more aware of our shared humanity.

See you soon on the beach ….

Chilly Scenes of Winter

Sunrise

Chilly Scenes of Winter

 

While most thoughts of Mexico in the winter are of sunshine filled days lazing or frolicking on the beach, there are still those that sneak in – like this morning – cloud filled and gorgeous – and yes, chilly.

The beach walkers bundled up in sweatshirts and even down jackets. Ugg boots, or at least fat socks and tennis shoes, instead of flops and beach shorts. Their pace is a little quicker to fend off the cold.

Winter in Baja.

A place where pelicans, boobies and arctic terns dive for bait fish in the shallow waters close to shore. Where egrets and herons patiently hunt on the shoreline or in the estuaries, side by side with sandpipers, godwits and occasional killdeer. Where offshore, orcas, fin whales, dolphin, and dancing mobula entertain guests and locals, while we wait for the arrival of the blue whales.

A place and time for contemplation. The hunkering down that winter begs of the body and the mind. A hibernation of such, so that when spring unleashes her torrent of renewed growth, we are fresh from rest and ready to press forward again.

LORETO BAY NATIONAL PARK INTERACTIVE MAP

Here is a link to an interactive map for the The Loreto Bay National Park (PNBL) created by Blue Nation,  a small, family based dive shop, founded in 2018 in the beautiful Loreto, Baja California Sur.

The map has linked to dive, photo and snorkeling sites on the islands – with descriptions of each location. A wonderful informative tool for understanding all the wonders that our 5 main islands contain.

Loreto Bay National Park

UC Natural Reserve System gains Sister Reserve in Baja California

UC Natural Reserve System gains sister reserve in Baja California Sur

UC Natural Reserve System gains sister reserve in Baja California Sur

June 4, 2019 By Kathleen Wong

The Gulf of California is a marine wonderland. Washed by crystal blue waters and dotted with arid islands large and small, it teems with whales, sea turtles, manta rays, and other animals that thrive in this spectacular meeting of desert and sea.

This extraordinary region is now available to UC Natural Reserve System users thanks to a sister reserve agreement brokered with a Mexican nonprofit. Located in Baja California Sur, Eco-Alianza de Loreto A.C. works to protect and preserve the ecosystems of the Bahía de Loreto. The 12-year-old organization conducts water quality monitoring, raises public awareness of the value of the area’s marine, coastal, and terrestrial habitats, and collaborates with universities and other institutions to foster environmental research.

A mutually beneficial partnership

“Both partners will reap a multitude of benefits,” says Peggy Fiedler, executive director of the UC NRS. “Eco-Alianza will be able to arrange places for our users to stay and resources such as boat moorings. Meanwhile, UC can provide marine research and educational opportunities for the people of Loreto and Baja Sur.”

“Our goal is to create a strong alliance with our friends on both sides of the border, with the long term objective of increasing knowledge and building protective networks for wildlife that know no borders,” says Hugo Quintero Maldonado, co-founder and executive president of Eco-Alianza.

Becoming an NRS sister reserve “provides a rich opportunity to strengthen our ongoing collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico. This will include the expanded sharing of expertise and technology in areas of conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of resources,” says Linda Kinninger, a cofounder of Eco-Alianza who now serves on the organization’s board.

A jumping-off point for land and sea expeditions

Eco-Alianza is based in the historic town of Loreto, located two-thirds of the way down the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula. Just offshore lie the waters of the Bahía de Loreto. The 510,000-acre bay is internationally acclaimed as an ecological gem. It was declared a Mexican national park in 1996, and named a Ramsar wetland of international importance in 2004. In addition, Bahía de Loreto and all of its islands are part of the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California UNESCO World Heritage site.

Suzanne Olyarnik, director of the NRS’s Bodega Marine Reserve, visited Loreto this past March as an NRS representative. She came away deeply impressed by the commitment and interest in a partnership with the NRS. “The people of Loreto are eager to interact with researchers who can get students excited about science,” she says.

The Loreto area is rich with biological diversity, Olyarnik says, as well as intriguing oceanographic and geologic features. “From a marine science point of view, it’s an amazing place that we have only begun to explore. I am excited that the NRS can facilitate more people to come down and do academic and applied research to contribute to the management of what they have.”

An education and research exchange

UC faculty are eager to begin using the reserve. Among them is Nicholas Pinter, a professor of geosciences at UC Davis. “The vision for a Loreto reserve and field station is to serve as a spark — to bring research, education, scientific recognition and knowledge, and broader visibility to the Loreto region. We imagine Loreto as a mecca for scientific visitors to study and admire the area’s abundant natural wonders,” Pinter says.

For their part, the people of Loreto hope NRS visitors spark more interest in the natural sciences. “Collaborating with local researchers, educators, and authorities, we expect the team will foster additional understanding of our rich natural resources, strengthen the scientific and academic sectors here, and add to the rich cultural mosaic that is Loreto,” says Loreto mayor Arely Arce.

Arce and Eco-Alianza hope a UC-led uptick in environmental research will encourage the local university to launch a marine science program. At present, the Loreto campus of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur lacks a marine science program; the nearest program is located at the university’s La Paz campus, more than a four-hour drive away.

Eco-Alianza is the NRS’s second sister reserve to date. The first sister reserve arrangement, with Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in Namibia, was established in 2017. A number of exchanges between UC and this African desert reserve are already occurring, including a proposed UC Riverside study abroad course on ecology and herpetology, plus research into desert reptile physiology and how much moisture fog contributes to desert plants.

The growing NRS family

The NRS sister reserve designation is the second recent alliance between Loreto and an American organization. In 2016, the U.S. National Park Service and Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources established a Sister Park Partnership Initiative between Channel Islands National Park and Bahía de Loreto National Park. The NRS’s Santa Cruz Island Reserve is adjacent to Channel Islands National Park and works closely with the park on island research and management issues.

The Eco-Alianza sister reserve agreement comes hot on the heels of NRS growth in California. Point Reyes Field Station and Lassen Field Station both joined the NRS this May via partnerships with the National Park Service.

 

Revised Management Plan for Loreto Bay National Park

PARQUE NACIONAL BAHIA DE LORETO

New Park Management Plan for Loreto Bay National Park

Mexico’s Federal Register published the revised Loreto Bay National Park Management Plan in April, 2019. This supplanted the 2002 version, and expanded to 510,472 acres protected waters and lands.

The plan is the result of a thousands of hours in 10-year process of scoping meetings to build capacity and consensus.  These meetings were held with the participation of scientists, fishermen, tourist service providers, trained facilitators, conservationists, economists, and several non-profit organizations.

The newly released plan divides the Park into 7 different sub-zones and expands the areas of protected and no-take zones.  The objective of this plan is to protect habitats critical for biodiversity, rare ecosystem, and satisfy the needs of local fishermen and visitors to the area.

To learn more about the details, click on the Eco-Alianza link below.

http://ecoalianzaloreto.org/revised-park-management-plan-declared-after-ten-year-wait/

Baja California Sur Bans Plastic Bags, Straws & Sytrofoam

Plastic Straw Pollution (image source: Waterways Charity Thames 21)

“New state law in Baja California Sur banning use of plastic bags, straws and styrofoam. In the following 12 months stores, restaurants and food venders will be given time to use the plastic they have and then after that it will be prohibited. In the following 18 months venders for plastic containers (plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam cups, plates, bowls) will be given to change for organic and compostable options now available in BCS and in general in Mexico. Basically, the government gives a certain time to vendors and clients to adjust to a now widely known fact: plastic kills our wildlife, pollute the marine and terrestrial wildlife we eat and over fills our limited land. The complete press bulletin in Spanish is attached. The attached pictures are from the young folks who made it possible in La Paz at the State Congress – the law was passed unanimously. In 34 years of living in BCS, I never thought I would see the day. I am so happy to see this time come! Every time that as a consumer you showed up with your own canvas bags, or your own container, or said “no straw please” – it made a measure difference. Thank you for helping us get here. Desplasticate = take plastic out of your life – is the state coalition of business that achieved this law.”

– Thanks to Cecilia Fisher for posting this on Facebook.

La parte sustantiva de la ley es:
“El Congreso del Estado aprobó por unanimidad una reforma a la Ley de Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente del Estado de Baja California Sur, mismo que establece la eliminación del uso de bolsas plásticas, contenedores de unicel (poliestireno expandido) y popotes plásticos.
Cabe mencionar que a partir de que la Ley entre en vigor se dará un lapso de 12 meses a supermercados, tiendas de autoservicio y conveniencia, mercados y restaurantes, para utilizar el producto con el que ya cuentan e ir desplazándolo por otras opciones. Mientras que los distribuidores de menudeo y mayoreo de dichos productos contarán con 18 meses”

Soundings – Eco-Alianza Newsletter

Logotipo-10-anos-Eco-Alianza.jpg

A 10-Year Celebration of Conservation

For those of you who were unable to attend the Gala last month, here is a link http://ecoalianzaloreto.org/10-years-of-eco-alianza-de-loreto-a-c-video/ to Eco-Alianza’s video, Ten Years of Conservation. The film was produced by volunteer Pepe Cheires, with amazing wildlife footage donated by Rick Jackson and Johnny Friday. Please feel free to SHARE the video with friends and family; it offers a great explanation of what Eco-Alianza is all about. Next month, we hope to distribute a version with subtitles in Spanish.

The film was shown at the Gala, at which we also discussed several new conservation initiatives, and expansion of environmental education and existing programs. We will report on those here in Soundings in the months to come. Enjoy the video, thank you for your steadfast support, and we look forward to your partnership and your ideas as we launch Eco-Alianza’s second decade of conservation!

Dr. Rebman Presentation Exhibits Passion for Plants

As part of the ongoing Visiting Scientist series, Dr. Jon Rebman spoke to a packed house on November 27 about “The Flora of Baja California Sur: Hot New Plant Discoveries and Cool Succulents.” The presentation, at Eco-Alianza’s CenCoMA headquarters, included dozens of beautiful slides, as well as stories detailing the wide variety of “pollination syndromes” that have evolved in Baja’s plants, as well as the incredible diversity in topography, microclimate, soil type, geology, and other factors that influence the survival of different plant species.

Click to read more:  http://ecoalianzaloreto.org/soundings-december-issue-2017/

Soundings – August 2017

SOUNDINGS
The ecological e-newsletter of Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C.
August 2017

Eco-Alianza de Loreto’s mission is to protect and conserve the natural and cultural environment by empowering civil society and government to jointly create healthy and prosperous communities.

Our vision is that communities believe their quality of life is related to the health and vitality of the environment and citizens act accordingly.

Fishing is for the Birds


Photos courtesy of Richard Jackson Photography.
This photographic series by Rick Jackson proves how the proper tools and the proper technique make for an effective combination, as this Reddish Egret successfully catches breakfast (clockwise from upper left). Summer heat in Loreto demands efficiency in movement!!
Grants and Donations Support Marine Park Enforcement Efforts

Photo courtesy of ProNatura Noroeste.

Paralelo 28 Gathering Steam Statewide


Hugo Quintero (third from right at front table) took part in the La Paz presentation.
Photo courtesy of Paralelo28.org

As reported previously in Soundings, Eco-Alianza is one of four non-profit partners in the
Paralelo 28 collaboration. Late last month, Eco-Alianza President Hugo Quintero joined in a public presentation in La Paz, where representatives of tourism companies presented a check to support the collaborative efforts. Funds are raised through a variety of methods, including sales of wristbands, stuffed animals, events, and general donations to Paralelo28.org .

In addition to Eco-Alianza, participating organizations include ProNatura Noroeste, Niparajá, and Red de Observadores Ciudadanos La Paz. The groups seek to partner with businesses, tourism service suppliers, tourists, fishermen and society in general, in the defense and safeguard of protected natural areas. Funds raised will be dedicated to support surveillance and enforcement efforts in five natural protected areas in the region, including the Bay of Loreto National Park.

Quintero said he hopes to host a similar Paralelo 28 presentation in Loreto in the late summer or fall. For more information: Paralelo28.org .

Environmental Education Never Ends at Eco-Alianza

Whether it’s an educational event, a workshop, a field trip, a public presentation, or some sort of teacher meeting or training, there’s always environmental education activity afoot at Eco-Alianza. At the center of it all is Environmental Education Coordinator Edna Peralta.Getting children and adults outside to experience nature is her favorite part of the job, Edna says, because helping people learn and helping them to make that personal connection is what it’s all about. After more than seven years building the environmental education program at Eco-Alianza, she is hopeful that she may be joined in the not too distant future by another educator.

In the meantime, here’s a brief glimpse at the activities from the first half of this year (a presentation Edna whipped together for Eco-Alianza’s Board of Directors meeting in July:
https://www.kizoa.com/Movie-Maker/d129472351k5293411o1/201707-reporte-trimestral-edu-amb

And for a sense of the impact these environmental education programs have on Loreto’s children, here’s a brief video, with thanks to volunteer “Pepe” Ruiz Cheires and K-Drone Adventure Films https://youtu.be/_VXF5VmW4bw

Tickets NOW on Sale for 10th Anniversary Gala

Come join us and kick up your heels on November 11 to celebrate Eco-Alianza’s 10 Years of Conservation. Our anniversary dinner/auction has sold out five years in a row, so with limited seating for our hallmark 10th Anniversary we’re expecting to sell out very early. Please reserve your tickets now to guarantee your seats.

Eco-Alianza Headquarters “Going Solar”


Photo of CenCoMA showing solar panels.
Photo courtesy of Richard Jackson Photography.

They’ve been in the plans for some time, but the array of solar panels on the roof of Eco-Alianza’s CenCoMA headquarters is an obvious sign of the organization’s long-term energy efficiency effort. Energy-efficient lighting, modular air conditioning units, outdoor plantings, and a shade-covered courtyard also have contributed to improved energy efficiency.

Hugo Quintero, Eco-Alianza CEO and co-founder, said the nine solar panels and accompanying microinverters are just the beginning. Additional panels will be added over the next year or so, coordinated with other building improvements, to maximize energy production. Each panel is tilted at the perfect angle to take full advantage of sunlight throughout the year.

“Nature Notes” is a monthly short feature detailing some of the wondrous, seasonal activities taking place around us.

Clockwise order from upper left.
Brown Booby adult with single remaining chick.
Brewsteri subspecies pair of Brown Boobies at a nest site.
Blue-footed Booby’s blue feet.
Blue-Footed Booby in flight.

Photos courtesy of Tom Haglund/BCS Birds.

By Tom HaglundThey’rrre baaaack!!

If you’ve been missing seeing the Boobies the past few months there’s good news: they are returning from their annual nesting grounds to Loreto in good numbers. They leave in spring and go to several islands to nest. The Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) usually lays two eggs. The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) lays one to three. Both parents bring food to their chicks and regurgitate it for their consumption. Neither species typically raises all of its chicks successfully.

Both birds dive for fish, the Blue-footed generally from higher than the Brown and very vertically to gain greater depth. The Brown flies lower over the water and dives at a shallower angle, returning to the air very quickly after most dives, whereas the Blue-footed often stays submerged for several seconds. The Blue-footed tends to fish in larger groups than does the Brown.

There is a subspecies of Brown Booby (brewsteri) here, the male of which has a whitish head, the females of both types of Browns look exactly alike. The Blue-footed, as the name implies, has blue feet.

Both Browns and Blue-footed can be seen regularly in fall and winter in various locations around Loreto. On the Eastern and Northern cliffs of Isla Coronado they can be quite numerous. The remaining pilings of the old pier on the north side of Las Garzas often has a number of roosting Blue-footeds. Both species can be seen diving for food all along the malecón and beaches.

There’s Still Time to Take the Soundings Readers Survey

Early last summer, we embarked on a quest to inform more fully, and to interact more frequently, with everyone interested in Eco-Alianza’s mission. The initiative included Soundings – a new, monthly e-newsletter.

Last month we began a 10-question Readers Survey, which ends a week from today. Please take two minutes to share your thoughts about Soundings‘ first year, and you may find yourself the lucky winner of an Eco-Alianza cap or T-shirt – our way of saying thanks for your time and your opinions!!

Survey in English:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8J6RTH7

Survey in Spanish:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KHB3KSC

Coming in the September Soundings

Loreto’s Own Organic, Pasteurized Goat Milk and Cheese Operation Expecting November Opening!!!

Our Loreto office address is:
Centro Communitario para el Medio Ambiente (CenCoMA)
Miguel Hidalgo SN, Loc 3
Esq. Romanita
Col. Contro, CP 23880
Loreto, B.C.S., México
http://www.ecoalianzaloreto.org
http://espanol.ecoalianzaloreto.org