Every day has been full of unexpected encounters, which of course keeps things alive and exciting. Recently there was a pleasant cooling trend that spawned from the out edge of a tropical storm, which brought rain and a soothing breeze. If I actually had time to enjoy this weather, it would have involved fish tacos, a hammock, and a margarita. But my current agenda is viva vaquita, not viva margarita. I have had a fluid schedule of interviews with those that are strategizing vaquita protection methods as well conducting local outreach. I have also been interviewing those that this issue effects greatly, the fishing community. The media tends to focus only on the vaquita as it is a sensitive species that is unable to help itself. Another important element of this story is how the recent ban has effected local fishermen. Fishermen are now having to adjust their habits and techniques in order to survive in this region. Some fishermen are also concerned of losing the vaquita forever and the repercussions that this event might bring to Mexico and their livelihood.
For the past week I have been conversing with local fishermen and listening to their concerns. All across the Upper Gulf of California, there are organized cooperatives of fishermen with elected leaders to represent them, but there are two specific groups that are within the San Felipe district. Antonio Sunshine Rodriguez Pena (Sunshine) is the president of the Federación de Cooperativas Ribereñas and Ramon Franco Diaz is the president of the Federascion Dudnes Rubio Castro . After communicating with the representatives of each group, I learned that they share some beliefs, but are far apart on other issues. This combination only contributes to the complications of the gillnet ban and the survival of the vaquita. Both groups stated that one of the issues that they do agree on, is that there is a second contributing factor to the demise of the vaquita. They believe toxins are bleeding into the sea from the Colorado River, specifically mercury. Although there have be no formal investigations by these groups to verify this concern, they strongly believe that this factor should not be ignored. Sunshine plans on conducting his own internal study to validate these concerns. Whether these speculations are true or not, this information is important as I am learning this from the source, which I would have not have known unless I met these individuals. In order to tell a story, it is important to get the full scope of all the issues and not an edited version which is how daily news is delivered quite frequently.
My time here is coming to an end although I have had many thoughts about taking up residence here in San Felipe, including looking at properties. This town is truly a gem within a chest of eco-treasure. I highly suggest that each and every one of you visit San Felipe and experience the bounty of the Upper Gulf. This will not only fill your soul with hope for the vaquita, but it will also help the local fishing community adopt a new alternative to generating income for their families with vaquita tourism.
Tags: conservation, fishermen, gillnets, mercury, san felipe, Souls of the Vermilion Sea, totoaba, totoaba swim bladder, Vaquita