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Media 042015 Sea of Cortez

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mexico announces its Strategy to Preserve the Upper Sea of Cortez

Office of the President

We "are creating strategic partnerships which, through the implementation of a nationwide maritime surveillance system will enable us to streamline the effective protection and preservation of natural resources." – Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz, Mexican Secretary of the Navy

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declared that the government is a green government that promotes public policies and innovative strategies for the environment. In keeping with this ethical duty, he announced the launch of a comprehensive strategy to preserve the marine ecosystem of the Upper Gulf of California [aka Sea of Cortez], whose primary objective is to prevent the extinction of the vaquita porpoise.

He said that Mexico has, “Implemented various measures, actions, specific public policies, laws and legal systems geared to demonstrating Mexico’s commitment to preserving the global environment.”

He noted that in the actions announced, “The government’s commitment to the environment is quite clear.”

The president explained that Mexico is a diverse country, whose surface covers 1 percent of the world, despite which, “It contains 10 percent of the planet’s biodiversity.” He added that several of the species that live in our country are endemic, meaning that they are only found in Mexico.

The president said that among cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins, the vaquita is the smallest in the world, and unfortunately the most endangered. It is endemic to Mexico, and it is estimated that there are fewer than 100 in the wild.

President Peña Nieto said that the strategy to preserve the marine ecosystem of the Upper Gulf of California involves four major steps:

FIRST: Expand the circle of protection. A wider demarcation than the previous one was declared, which now makes it easier to identify which areas are protected and monitored. This monitoring is the responsibility of our Armed Forces.

SECOND: Financial compensation for fishermen who used to earn their livelihood in this area. This second step involves creating a two-year ban on fishing. It also means that fishermen will be paid to stop fishing and using techniques that endanger the vaquita.

The president explained that economic support will be provided, “For fishing communities, which as a result of this ban should continue to earn a fair, decent income that allows them to engage in some other activity, and if they do keep fishing, engage in new, sustainable techniques.”

THIRD: Strengthen the inspection and surveillance of the region. During the event, the president handed over the keys of new Navy vessels used to patrol the protection zone and ensure that the measures announced are fully enforced.

FOURTH: Promote “New fishing techniques, which are much more environmentally friendly, sustainable, respect the environment, and involve the commitment of those engaged in fishing to make it a sustainable activity, in other words, an activity that does not threaten or alter the environmental order or jeopardize Mexico’s commitment to protecting the environment.”

President Peña Nieto declared that these actions, “Have earned the recognition of several organizations committed to the care of our environment. They are a great conviction, which the government has assumed as a country, and as a government our responsibility is to care for the environment.”

Moreover, he said, these actions, “Accredit and reaffirm the government’s commitment to the respect, care, surveillance of the environment and related public policies.”

The protection and proper use of natural resources are a priority for the three orders of government: Soberón Sanz

Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz, Secretary of the Navy, said it is a priority for the authorities of the three levels of government to ensure the protection and proper use of natural resources for the benefit of the nation.

He said that in order to achieve this goal, the Secretariats of Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, and the Navy, “are creating strategic partnerships which, through the implementation of a nationwide maritime surveillance system will enable us to streamline the effective protection and preservation of natural resources.”

He said that as part of this strategic alliance, the three units signed various agreements to acquire a total of 17 Defender FC-33 boats, whereby they will contribute to the preservation and protection of the marine species and natural resources that inhabit the seas. “In the case of the Gulf of California, they will be a key factor in the recovery of the vaquita and other endemic species such as the totoaba (Mexican sea bass),” he said.

Soberón Sanz said that the government will increase the presence and use of new technologies in marine areas which, because of their geographical position and the wealth of natural resources they contain, are likely to be used for illegal activities or exploited above legal limits.

He said that this project is a clear sign of the combination of wills between society, civil organizations, government institutions and state governments, which will protect the wealth of our seas. “A combination of wills that will enhance the protection of marine resources that rightfully belong to all Mexicans. This will and union will lead us to a better future,” he declared.

Actions to protect the vaquita are a model for social justice for other countries: WWF

The Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Omar Vidal Pinzón, said that, “The measures announced today are undoubtedly the most important actions to protect the vaquita and support fishermen and their families since 1993, over 20 years ago, when this area was declared the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Reserve.”

He declared that under the leadership of President Peña Nieto, “The actions of the government, fishermen, many civil society organizations, national and international foundations, and the private sector have combined to preserve this species and ensure the well-being of fishing communities.” We hope this will be a new and promising stage for the development of this important region of Mexico, with social justice.”

He said that the strategy launched in this protected area should serve as an example to other protected areas in Mexico with similar challenges, and could also become a model for other countries. The eyes of many countries are on Mexico, and “This could become a model of social justice for other nations,” he said.

Announcing that fewer than 100 vaquitas survive, he declared that fishermen are key players because it is they who “will innovate and learn new fishing techniques, and diversify their economic activities with support from the authorities. It is they who will preserve their national heritage and ultimately those who will save the vaquita.”

He stressed that it is essential to eliminate illegal totoaba fishing in Mexico, and made an urgent appeal to the governments of the United States and China to be inspired by the leadership Mexico is showing. “To jump-start this strategy we have all made an effort, beginning with you, Mr. President,” he concluded.

Baja California Governor says that in order to make Mexico grow, we must keep working in a committed manner

In order to make Mexico grow, the federal and state governments must continue to work together, said Governor of Baja California Francisco Arturo Vega de Lamadrid, while noting that in this state there is commitment and agreement between local authorities and the government.

The state governor thanked President Peña Nieto for the progress in federal projects being undertaken in the state. Likewise, he expressed his interest in working together on public policies to deliver better social conditions and create greater competitiveness.

“We share the efforts, problems and aspirations of each and every Mexican. In Baja California, we are working very hard to achieve economic growth and social welfare in our region, and thereby contribute to the development of the country,” said Francisco Vega.

For the first time, there is a president who believes in fishing and is accompanying fishermen: Sunshine Antonio Rodriguez Peña

On behalf of fishermen in the Mexicali [municipality], Sunshine Antonio Rodríguez thanked President Peña Nieto for his sensitivity and the actions he has undertaken for this sector, such as the historic agreement, “Where government and fishermen are seeking the sustainability and well-being of families in the Upper Gulf community.”

He said that for the first time, “There is a president who believes in fishing, who joins us in our work and will fight to improve the fisheries sector. Today, fisheries, fishermen and you will make history.”

He said that since fishing has been the economic livelihood of many households for generations in this region, “We are the first to seek sustainability and, for the same reason, to protect the ecosystem.”


Presidency of the Republic, Apr. 16, 2015, Mexico, DF; translation by Presidency of the Republic

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