Puerto Peñasco: Sea notes

By José Antonio Pérez

Hake permits approved for northern Pacific

Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) reported the SubCommittee on Responsible Fishing for the National Consulting Board of Agrofeed Regulations (CCNNA) has unanimously authorized hake fishing for the northern Pacific, with an initial provision of 80 permits for sustainable fishing in the states of Baja California, Sinaloa, and Sonora.

In working with local fishermen and producers, the federal government aims to take up measures that focus on promoting productive sustainable development.

Promotion of shrimp aquaculture project

The Sonoran SubSecretary for Fishing, along with the Upper Gulf Federation of Shipbuilders, are developing an experimental shrimp aquaculture project to create new production options in Puerto Peñasco.

Many see this as an opportunity to diversify production, particularly given adverse conditions faced by the fishing sector in recent years.  The project, first phase of which includes the donation of shrimp larvae, is being done in conjunction with the vocational high school Center for Technological Ocean Studies (CetMar) #14 in Puerto Peñasco. In addition to diversifying options for the fishing sector, the project aims to link academic institutions with productive sectors for development projects in the region.

4000 Totoaba fingerlings released into Upper Gulf of California

Four thousand totoaba fingerlings, born at the laboratories of the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), were recently released into the Sea of Cortez near San Felipe, Baja California norte.  Since 1994, UABC has invested in research on the endangered species, endemic to Baja California and extraction of which has been banned for over 30 years.   Researchers detail in just 24 years they have released over 100,000 totoaba into the Upper Gulf waters, having only detected four of which were captured for illegal trafficking.

Vaquita marina extinction may be due to environmental causes

Though the imminent extinction of the vaquita marina of the Upper Gulf of California has been blamed on the fishing industry, the use of gillnets, and illegal trafficking of the endangered totoaba, researchers are also considering its demise may also be due to environmental causes.

At the Fishing and Development Forum held in Puerto Peñasco earlier this year, organized by the State Chamber of Representatives and meant to focus on sustainable fishing, UABC oceanographer Manuel Salvador Galindo Bect argued the vaquita is estuarine rather than marine, and its eventual extinction is owed to environmental rather than fishing factors.

He believed the lack of fresh water from the Colorado River into the Upper Gulf of California has significantly reduced the habitat of many species.

The retired researcher, professor, and oceanographer from the Autonomous University of Baja California detailed, “Through various studies over nearly 25 years at the university, we have determined problems confronting endemic species protected by fishing bans, are principally caused by environmental reasons rather than fishing activities.”

Marine biologist Agustín Sánchez Osuna,  Fishing Delegate from the Gulf of Santa Clara, similarly stated the cetaceans’ extinction process actually began in the 1940s with the construction of dams in both Mexico and the United States, diverting fresh water to agriculture and cities, therefore drying up the natural waterway that no longer empties out into the Upper Gulf of California.

“All of the fresh water from the Colorado River created an estuary, a broad reproductive zone for species” he furthered, “as this was diminished the survival possibilities of many species also dropped.  This in turn led to a reduction in the area for fishing for species such as shrimp and (prior to being listed as endangered) the totoaba; in there being a more reduced area, this led to the presence of more nets in the water, and netting of more vaquita.”

There are an estimated 10, though no more than 20, vaquita marina still in existence.  The principal stance taken by scientists and governments in the vaquita’s extinction has been blamed on their capture in gillnets meant to catch the also endangered totoaba, whose swim bladder can yield over $5000 USD on the East Asian black market.



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