An international team of experts has gathered in San Felipe, Mexico at the request of the Mexican government (SEMARNAT) and has begun a bold, compassionate plan known as VaquitaCPR to save the endangered vaquita porpoise from extinction. The vaquita porpoise, also known as the ‘panda of the sea,’ is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Latest estimates by scientists who have been monitoring the vaquita for decades show there are fewer than 30 vaquitas left in the wild. The vaquita only lives in the upper Gulf of California.
The project, which has been recommended by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), involves locating, rescuing and then temporarily relocating the vaquitas to an ocean sanctuary off the coast of San Felipe. The explicit goal of CPR is to return the vaquitas to their natural habitat once the primary threat to their survival has been eliminated. Experts from Mexico, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom are all working together on VaquitaCPR.
“Rescuing these animals and placing them in a temporary sanctuary is necessary to protect them until their natural habitat can be made safe,” said Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, lead vaquita expert and chair of CIRVA. “We realize that capturing even a few vaquitas will be very difficult, but if we don’t try the vaquita will disappear from the planet forever.”
The ecological e-newsletter of Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C.
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.
Eco-Alianza Teams Up to Support Totoaba Program
By Megan Rogers, Eco-Alianza Intern with contributions by Eco-Alianza staff
More than 50 volunteers rolled up their sleeves on July 14 at the Santispac beach on Bahía Concepción in Mulegé, determined to do whatever is necessary to support a critically endangered fish, the Totoaba. On that day, the task was to release 30,000 young fish into the bay, a bucketful at a time.
When the 244 islands and islets of the Gulf of California were declared a World Heritage Site in 2005, the Totoaba was one of the reasons – an endemic, endangered species that historically has been an important food source in the area. Currently it is also the center of controversy, as illegal fishing operations target the species and sell it covertly to a black market in China that covets only part of the fish, its swim bladder. The gill nets that are used to catch Totoaba in its range in the northern Gulf also are blamed for the precipitous decline of the world’s most endangered cetacean, the Vaquita (see article below).
As Totoaba have become rarer and rarer, the Mexican government has taken a variety of steps to conserve both the Totoaba and the Vaquita. One of the efforts for the Totoaba involves a privately-owned company called Earth Ocean Farms in La Paz, which operates a hatchery for the fish and raises them through aquaculture until they are large enough to have a fair chance for survival.
This is the third year that Eco-Alianza has taken part in the fish release, sanctioned by México’s secretariat in charge of fisheries, Sagarpa, as well as Semarnat. Part of the reasoning for the release site is that it’s an area within the natural range of the Totoaba, but is nearly 400 miles south of the range of the Vaquita.
Although the program has a bit of a wait-and-see, experimental element to it, helping an endangered species in any way is a positive step, says Eco-Alianza President and CEO Hugo Quintero. “Even if all the Totoaba babies released are eaten by larger fish, events like these not only aim to help the ecosystems, but to change the mind-set of all the participating people, engaging them in conservation and in a responsible consumption of seafood products.” Releasing the animals, he says, “brings hope to young kids and helps them feel both connected to nature, and part of a potential conservation solution.” This year, he said, several special needs children from Santa Rosalía took part, giving them a rare opportunity for a hands-on conservation experience.
Amidst a diverse crowd of passionate adults, my camera lens gravitated most towards the glowing faces of the children at the Totoabas release. Though I come from a dramatically different climate and culture, I could relate to the excitement of the children in full, recalling my own Salmon release experience when I was their age. The physical impact of the Totoabas release will remain largely ambiguous, as the fish were not tagged in any way; however, the greatest impact of the release could be in the memories made by children. It is experiences like the Totoabas release that cultivate the next generation of environmentally connected and conscious citizens. Witnessing the joy of the children as they liberated the precious fish gave me immense hope that as they grow into teens and parents one day, environmental awareness will be a part of their identity.
Thank you to Eco-Alianza volunteer José Gregorio Ruiz Cheires for creating this video of the event:
Here’s a link to a video on the Totoaba issue, in Spanish
UNESCO Meeting Yields Surprising Results Regarding Vaquita
Photo courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity.
Earlier this month, the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, in Krakow, Poland, resulted in some unexpected results for many involved in the struggle to save the Vaquita, the world’s most endangered cetacean.
The small porpoise, which lives in the northern Gulf of California and nowhere else, has dwindled over the past decades from an estimated population of almost 600 in the late 1990s to 245 in 2008; 200 in 2012; 97 in 2014, 60 in 2015; and now 30. The marine mammals’ main cause of mortality has been entanglement and subsequent drowning in fishing nets, many aimed at another endangered species, the Totoaba fish (see article above).
In a 1972 convention the United Nations created the World Heritage Committee to identify and designate specific sites around the world that contain elements of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), including threatened animals and plants, unique physical or biological formations, and other natural features. The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California were declared a World Heritage Site in 2005, partly because of the endangered Vaquita and the endangered Totoaba. As a signatory of the World Heritage treaty, it is incumbent upon the Mexican government to conserve and protect the 244 islands and islets that are part of the site, and also the elements of OUV.
Part of the World Heritage convention declares that sites can be declared at the annual meetings as “World Heritage Site in Danger,” a designation that allows for other countries to take extreme measures, and use UNESCO funding, to protect the OUV elements of the site. If the site loses its OUV elements, it also allows for de-certification as a World Heritage Site.
Since May 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Welfare Institute have lobbied for the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to apply “In Danger” designation for The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California site, including all five islands in the Bay of Loreto National Park. This year the resolution was widely expected to pass, at the annual meeting in Poland. Part of the argument is that México’s government has not taken adequate measures to protect the Vaquita and Totoaba. The petition paper is linked below.
Surprisingly, however, less than two weeks before the meeting, México announced that the temporary gill net ban in the upper Gulf, where the Vaquita live, has been made permanent. The committee at its meeting voted to delay for a year the decision to attach “In Danger” designation to the site.
Sister City Committee Reaching Across
the Border for Cooperation
The trips would also have cultural components, as well as informal opportunities to experience life with American families.
The Sister City Committee in Ventura, as reported previously in Soundings, is considering ideas for a “Migrant Club” project that would benefit Loreto. The group’s Migrant Club was initiated earlier this year by 10 Mexican nationals who now live in the Ventura area. Formation of the group may make them eligible for matching funds from the Mexican government for projects that benefit sister communities in México (i.e., Loreto).
Currently, both groups are investigating the feasibility of initiating a used motor oil collection facility for Loreto, which could ultimately result in used motor oil being recycled. The municipality of Loreto is helping to explore the idea, which would require approval of an appropriate site, as well as a variety of environmental and other permits. On the plus side, the facility would ensure that used motor oil is collected in an appropriate manner, instead of potentially being disposed of in ways that could leach into drinking water aquifers or the marine park.
Watch this space for more news on this project and other Sister City/Sister Park/Sister Mission happenings.
Meet Jimena Gallegos, Eco-Alianza’s Projects Manager
Jimena Gallegos, Projects Manager.
Eco-Alianza staff photo.At the beginning of July, Eco-Alianza welcomed a new staff member, Jimena Gallegos Palos, who will serve as Projects Manager. Jimena earned a degree in Electronic and Telecommunications Engineering from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, her home state in North-Central México. She is currently studying for a master’s degree in Environmental Management and Marine Technologies.
Jimena also has a strong interest in Eco-Alianza’s budding business incubator initiative and holds a degree in Social Incubators from the Cuernavaca campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. She has previously worked to link México’s national entrepreneurial support system to business acceleration platforms and a private capital management network, all to benefit budding entrepreneurs. Eco-Alianza staff members came to know Jimena through her work in La Paz on various StartUp Weekend events, supporting local entrepreneurs and helping to flesh out their ideas (previously reported in Soundings).
“My expectations with Eco-Alianza are to support the growth of the multidisciplinary team and the community in general for empowerment, education, and the conservation of our natural ecosystems,” Jimena says. “I believe in gratitude to the universe for each of the opportunities it offers us, recognizing that giving is not a cycle – sharing is part of living.”
Eco-Alianza President and CEO Hugo Quintero says he is thrilled to have Jimena on the team. “She is very well organized and has a mind for working in teams,” Hugo says. “She will help coordinate our efforts both internally and externally, and importantly, will bring increased effectiveness and efficiency to our many projects, resulting in maximum value from every penny donated by individuals and donor organizations.”
Summer Interns Fall for Loreto
If you’ve stopped by Eco-Alianza recently, you may have noticed the friendly smiles and diligent work habits of our two summer interns, who both head back north late this month.
Megan Rogers (17), from Woodinville, Washington, attends Woodinville High School, and was recently elected Student Body President. Megan’s proud grandparents are Linda and Tony Kinninger of Eco-Alianza’s Board of Directors and Advisors. Megan has enthusiastically worked closely with Edna Peralta, in the Environmental Education Program benefiting Loreto youth. Megan states, “The impact Eco-Alianza has made in Loreto over these past 10 years is truly incredible and something I was determined to be a part of since elementary school. Contributing to this organization has reaffirmed my passion of serving others and deepened my love for the beauty of Loreto and its people. Edna is a wonderful role model and I’m so thankful to learn from her and everyone at the office each day.”
Alex McBratney (17), from Santa Ana, California, attends Troy High School. Alex is the third member of his family to intern at Eco-Alianza. His sisters Kelly and Katie enjoyed the experience so much, it inspired Alex to spend a month working at Eco-Alianza and exploring the diversity of Loreto. Alex has been working along with Hector Trinidad, Director of Eco-Alianza’s conservation programs and Loreto Coastkeeper, and Edna Peralta, Coordinator, Environmental Education Programs. Alex says he was struck by the natural beauty of Loreto, which helped him understand why Eco-Alianza’s staff works so hard to protect it. Working on the Coastkeeper program with Hector, Alex says, also showed him the support that the community has for conservation and nature.
We’ll miss Megan and Alex as they head back to finish up high school, and we expect we haven’t see the last of them!
Eco-Alianza staff photos.
“Nature Notes” is a monthly short feature detailing some of the wondrous, seasonal activities taking place around us.
Clockwise order from upper left.
By Tom Haglund
As we approach Loreto’s rainy season it might be a good time to reflect a minute on what that means. The countryside will explode in greenery and butterflies, of course, but some of the other big benefits are more subtle. Vast amounts of new soil and nutrients will course down from the mountains through the arroyos and pump new life into the esteros (estuaries) all along the Baja coastline.
Here in Loreto, that means Estero las Garzas will receive its share of life’s basics to continue producing protein on an enormous scale. A walk along the beach around Las Garzas is an easy lesson in this amazing cycle, as we will see literally millions of holes, many surrounded by some tiny mud balls. These are mostly the homes of crabs. Various sizes of several species make up this incredible scramble of food looking for food. They are in the middle between their diet of even smaller life forms and the much larger shorebirds who harvest them.
Some birds are crab specialists, others just take them when convenient. Wilson’s Plovers eat little else and live their entire lives on a couple of miles of Baja shoreline. Yellow-crowned Night Herons also take crabs almost exclusively, whereas the Little Blue Heron, and Ring-billed Gull are opportunistic crab eaters. Obviously, these vital coastal interactive zones between land and sea are impacted by whatever comes down those arroyos. Be it a grand summer rain or some introduced runoff, they cannot dodge the flow.
Soundings is One Year Old – Take the Survey!
A little over a year ago, we embarked on a quest to inform more fully, and to interact more frequently, with everyone interested in Eco-Alianza’s mission. This initiative has included website upgrades, the beginnings of the Loreto.com website, frequent postings on social media, and Soundings – our monthly e-newsletter.
So what do you think? We’d appreciate two minutes out of your busy day to help us make Soundings even better. Take our 10-question readers survey, 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:
Survey in Spanish:
Unique Experiences – Key to an Amazing
10th Anniversary Event
Photo courtesy of Richard Jackson Photography.
At Eco-Alianza, our CenCoMA headquarters is already abuzz with talk about November’s 10th Anniversary dinner/auction gala. The hallmark event promises to be the best ever, even topping last year’s elegant soiree in the newly refurbished courtyard.
To make the event extra special, we need your help. One of the highlights of the event is always the live auction, which not only raises critical funds for Eco-Alianza programs and initiatives, but offers up some pretty amazing items and experiences. For our 10th Anniversary, we really need the WOW factor, and that’s where you come in!
Photo courtesy of Richard Jackson Photography.The vast majority of NGOs either burn out or fizzle in their first decade, so this really is a momentous occasion. Do you have an item, or a unique experience, that could be auctioned off to help the cause?? A lot of our bidders are doers, and aren’t always attracted by “stuff,” so we’re especially looking for out-of-the-ordinary outings or passes or tag-alongs or special trips with a unique flair! Our silent auction needs items and experiences, as well, so now’s the time, as we begin putting together our auction catalog.
All donations are tax-deductible in the U.S., so if you can pitch in, or just want to discuss an idea, please email Edna Peralta at Edna.Peralta@ecoalianzaloreto.net . And thank you so much for your support – we’ll see you November 11.
Blue Whales Lead to Blue Skies in Santa Barbara Channel
Most of us remember the first time we saw a blue whale, probably the largest animal ever to roam the planet. Their elegant grace almost belies description, and it’s easy to forget for a moment their massive size as one listens to their breathing or watches their tail slip beneath the waves.
Slower container ships means safer whales.
Photos courtesy of Earth Media Laboratory.
Shipping lanes bisect the Santa Barbara Channel.
Unfortunately, their tremendous size translates into an inability to turn on a dime, or to get out of the way of passing ships – which becomes a huge problem when blue whales cross shipping lanes. But just as we’re in love with blue whales here in their southern sanctuary of the Bay of Loreto National Park, cetacean enthusiasts in our Sister City of Ventura, and neighboring Santa Barbara, are taking steps to protect the whales on their migration route.
As it turns out, shipping companies can have a heart, too, especially when compassion is coupled with an improved bottom line. The video linked below explains the win-win situation that is now in play. Shipping companies are slowing their vessels as they traverse the Santa Barbara Channel, resulting in fewer problems for the whales, improved fuel efficiency for the ships, and also far less air pollution. Proving again that cooperation often beats confrontation, and it never hurts to ask. Enjoy!
Save the Date for an Evening to Remember
Our Loreto office address is:
Centro Communitario para el Medio Ambiente (CenCoMA)
Miguel Hidalgo SN, Loc 3
Col. Contro, CP 23880
Loreto, B.C.S., México
http://espanol.ecoalianzaloreto.orgOur USA mailing address is:
Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. – CenCoMA
3419 Via Lido, Suite 637
Newport Beach, CA 92663
For more information, questions & requests our email address is:
Copyright © 2017 Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. All rights reserved.
The Gulf of California was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2005, with modifications added in 2007 and 2011. Considering it’s beauty and bounty, it is easy to see why this area received recognition. A brief description from their website gives an overview of why this wondrous area is protected:
Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California
The site comprises 244 islands, islets and coastal areas that are located in the Gulf of California in north-eastern Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and its islands have been called a natural laboratory for the investigation of speciation. Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the property, giving it extraordinary importance for study. The site is one of striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters. It is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, 90 of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species.
Loreto Bay National Marine Park is one of the areas included in the World Heritage designation. Efforts of local and government organizations focus on maintaining the seas bounty and wild beauty, and are supported by increasing awareness by organizations such as Eco-Alianza de Loreto.
For additional descriptions of the criteria for inclusion as a World Heritage Site – as well as expanded details on the areas themselves, here is alink to the site: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1182
It’s no surprise that I have a deep connection with the city of Loreto in Baja California. Ten years ago I went to visit my girlfriend, Val Wilkerson, and left with a house, a decision that I have never regretted. Loreto sits perched at the edge of the Sea of Cortez against a backdrop of the craggy and towering Sierra de la Giganta. Marine and mammal life forms abound.
Aside from it’s natural beauty, Loreto is home to some of the kindest people I have ever known. The original capital of California, the city grew from five founding families,and their descendants carry on on century old practices of family first.
Just before I had been introduced to Loreto, an organization to which I am now an advisor, The Ocean Foundation, had become an integral part of the development of Loreto Bay, billed as a sustainable community to the south of the city proper.
This morning, President of TOF, Mark Spalding, posted a blog piece about Loreto, and if you’d like to know more about his work in and out of our Baja community, please read what he has to share. He provides an overview of the natural resources, their current and threatened state.
Sultry summer nights.
To the east, the mainland sends up a show of lightning. Bursts of reddish colors paint the undersides of thick storm clouds. Loreto is humid, but no rain or thunder for the moment.
The repaired lighthouse in the marina casts a welcoming green white light as the top spins in its glass housing, guiding mariners safely home.
Overhead, starts punctuate the space between the clouds. The low level of city or neighborhood lights provides enough dark sky to enjoy a palette of twinkling white. Distant suns and planets. The extension of our our small earth-based universe.
Suddenly, a larger break in the clouds, now backlit with white. A tiny crescent moon, bathed in shades of orange, casts a shimmering pathway across the surface of the Sea. It appears as if I could almost walk to Isla Carmen on a carpet of watery light.
Yes, sultry summer nights on the Sea of Cortez, as we step toward fall …..
Hurricane Blanca’s winds hit Loreto around 3am, easily waking me. Storm anticipation is a sure sleep-wrecker. The electricity went off / then on again. I pulled open the slider and shuddered at the power of the wind and the dark dark night. No stars nor moon could pierce the heavy cloud cover.
I walked out onto the beach – no rain yet, just strong winds and pelting sand. The seas were frothy in the muted light, a virtual blackened plane punctuated with surging waves and white caps. The sound of the wind, it’s force and the darkness, were unsettling. Already, the scent of mud-washed arroyos permeated the air.
At 4am, satellite imagery showed the now diminished hurricane bearing down on Puerto Cortez, the western tip of the peninsula before spreading into Bahia de Ulloa and Bahia San Juancio. The storm made landfall as a tropical storm around 8am Baja Sur time, with increasing winds and falling rain.
Blasting winds, steady at 25-34 mph with gusts clocked at 46 mph, bent trees and shrubs as morning spread her light, have kept birds fluttering for cover, and pelicans struggling to remain afloat in the storm driven seas.
Blanca still churns her energy slight south of Loreto – the lean of the palm revealing the location of the heart of the storm. Most recent imagery indicates that the bulk of the rain has been deposited, and what remains is a wildly windier afternoon.
This display of nature’s force fuels a celebration in me – as witness the power of wind and sea and storm – while remaining grateful, that from a Category 4 hurricane just 3 days ago, Blanca’s presence here in Loreto has been that of a Tropical Storm.
On Monday, March 30, 2015, President Jorge Alberto Avilés Pérez of Loreto, Baja California Sur, received the “Keys to the City” of Ventura, California from Mayor Cheryl Heitmann, confirming the Sister City relationship between the two municipalities. The formal ceremony, which took place in the historic Ventura City Hall, included the reading of a proclamation, declaring the relationship between The City of San Buenaventura, California and The City of Loreto, Baja California Sur, “To encourage bi-national promotion of conservation, education, social entrepreneurship and cultural exchange between its citizens and governments in support of the Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto and Channel Islands Sister Park Project.”
President Avilés thanked the people of the City of Ventura for the distinction of Sisterhood with the City of Loreto. In a short speech, President Avilés remarked that, “Ventura and Loreto are two cities that have in common historical and geographical perspective and the mutual desire to develop appropriate strategies to support conservation and restoration of biodiversity in the respective territories and to continue to work for the mutual good of our sister cities.”
This solidified relationship provides the opportunity, “to work in coordination with the institutions concerned to protect and conserve our environment,” continued Sr. Avilés. The Sister City connection furthers a move toward confirmation of Sister Park/Sister Reserve between the Channel Islands National Park and The Bay of Loreto National Park.
Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. spearheaded the possibilities of the Park inter-relationship, as well as Sister City status, and has served both as facilitator and coordinator of the programs in a close working relationship with the Channel Islands National Park and the City of Ventura. When completed, the Sister Park/Reserve relationship will provide for the exchange of best-science practices, park resource management and enhanced Sister City economies associated with eco-tourism programs including unique cultural exchanges.
President Avilés was accompanied by his wife Mrs. Nancy Saldaña Cuevas, Tony and Linda Kinninger co-founders with Hugo Quintero Maldonado of Eco-Alianza, Marla Daily and Kirk Connally, of Santa Cruz Island Foundation and Terra Marine Research & Education, Inc., and Norma Garcia, the representative of the Loreto Sister Cities committee and a member of the Board of Directors of Eco-Alianza.
The day after the ceremonies, Mayor Heitmann and the contingency from Loreto enjoyed a boat tour to Santa Cruz Island, hosted by Island Packers, where they routed the University of California Research Field Station facilities with an inland Jeep tour. Following lunch, the group boarded a small plane for an aerial tour of the Channel Islands and a flight back to the Camarillo airport. That following evening, the Sister Cities committees met at City Hall to begin planning first steps. Mayor Heitmann lead the meeting with introductions, short presentations and a Q & A for all those attending.
Eco-Alianza would like to thank all those involved for making this first step both a success and a reality. Special thanks goes to Russell Galipeau, Superintendent of the Channel islands National Park, Kate Faulkner, Chief, Natural Resources Management, CINP, Yvonne Menard, Chief of Interpretation, CINP, and most especially to Mayor Cheryl Heitmann for organizing this first meeting of the Sister Cities and for making the Loreto delegation feel so welcome in their beautiful city. We look forward with great anticipation to the benefits of the Sister City relationship that is key to both the proposed Channel Islands National Park and Parque Nacional de Loreto Sister Park status.
Two presentations by
Mark Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation
Please join Mark Spalding on Friday, April 10, at 3pm at the indoor restaurant at the Inn at Loreto Bay, or on Saturday, April 11, at 5pm at the Community Center for the Environment (CenCoMA) at Eco-Alianza headquarters for an informative presentation and discussion regarding his ongoing research on the various mining projects throughout Baja California Sur, including Loreto.
Is mining actually good for the economy for more than the short term? Or does it do more harm to long-term sustainability of natural resources (land, water and sea) and the plants, animals and people who depend on them? What does it mean for the tourism sector?
Three major projects are currently in various stages of development:
Mark is President of The Ocean Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Center for the Blue Economy. He is an environmental expert and attorney, tirelessly advocating on behalf of the world’s coasts and ocean. Mark has engaged in numerous environmental challenges in BCS, including last year’s successful challenge to the Cabo Pulmo development, and the successful prevention of a second industrial saltworks at Laguna San Ignacio. Mark also has a particular affinity for Loreto, serving as a member of Eco-Alianza’s advisory board since its founding, and having helped to establish and steer the Loreto Bay Foundation.
There are two separate opportunities to learn more about mining and associated risks in Baja California Sur with Mark Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation. Come and increase your knowledge about environmental concerns and add your voice to the conversation.
Friday, April 10, 3pm
The Inn at Loreto Bay
Saturday, April 11, 5pm
The Community Center for the Environment
Eco-Alianza Headquarters (CenCoMA)
#3 Miguel Hidalgo esq. Romanita