Celebrating Conservation and Responsible Fishing at Isla Natividad, Mexico
This July, FishWise staffers Ashley Greenley and Scott Kennedy traveled to Baja California Sur for a celebration to recognize the progressive conservation actions of a small fishing community in Northwestern Mexico. In 2006, the local fishing cooperative at Isla Natividad, Buzos y Pescadores, partnered with COBI (Comunidad y Biodiversidad, a Mexican NGO) to voluntarily establish two marine reserves around the island. Requiring a significant financial investment by the fishermen, the project closed off 8% of the cooperative’s fishing grounds to all fishing activities and required dedicated manpower to enforce the reserves through nightly patrols. Despite the costs, the cooperative saw opportunity to use the reserves as a tool to restore and conserve the island’s productive fishing grounds.
Ten years later, the marine reserve project at Isla Natividad is heralded as a model for a successful collaboration between a community, NGOs, and scientists. In a partnership with COBI and ReefCheck California, nearly 20 fishermen and a team of local women have been SCUBA certified and trained to conduct scientific surveys as part of an annual monitoring program for the reserves. The data that the community and scientists have collected has demonstrated that reserves improve the ability of an ecosystem to withstand climatic impacts. FishWise partner Santa Monica Seafood supports COBI’s marine reserve program via their Responsible Sourcing Vendor Partner (RSVP) program.
In addition to their marine reserve monitoring, the Buzos y Pescadores cooperative at Isla Natividad has begun developing new fisheries for finfish, including a handline fishery for Yellowtail, which is typically caught using gillnets in this region. COBI and FishWise sponsored an external sustainability assessment of this fishery via the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which resulted in a rating of Green “Best Choice”. In addition to the assurance that the fishery is environmentally responsible, a La Paz based company Smartfish is working with the cooperative to ensure that the handline product is processed and handled to ensure high quality fillets. The product is currently being sold at upscale hotels and restaurants in Mexico and may eventually land in U.S. markets as well. It is the hope that this new ‘Green’ fishery will prove to be economically viable for the cooperative and serve as a model for other communities in the region.
FishWise is supportive of the efforts being made by the cooperative and the many organizations in Mexico that are working tirelessly to ensure a sustainable future for Mexico’s artisanal fishing communities.