By César Angulo*

Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (SEMARNAT) have allowed the real estate tourism development Paraíso del Mar in La Paz, Baja California Sur, to operate both without final approval of their environmental impact statement and in violation of a ruling from the Federal Court of Tax and Administrative Justice, reports CEMDA, the Mexican Center for Environmental Law.

In August, 2009, the 11th District Court of the Federal Tax and Administrative Justice Court determined   that   the  authoriza-
tion, erroneously granted to Paraiso del Mar by SEMARNAT, was illegal and therefore invalid.  In spite of this ruling and the Federal appeals court’s subsequent refusal to stay the judgement, the two federal agencies have permitted the company to continue operations nonetheless.

within   Punta   Abreojo’s    fishing zone. With the support of the Center for Marine Biodiversity Conservation – Gulf of California (CMBC-GC) under the direction of Dr. Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, the project, whose name anticipates sustainable tourism in the future, was developed.

Titled  "An  approach  to  develop-
ment management alternatives and   sustainable  uses   for   man-
grove areas with low human impacts
", the project began with a study about the conservation and protection of El Coyote estuary.

During the initial phase of the project (2009-2010), under the guidance of CMBC-GC  (a depart-
ment of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography) which has had a branch office in La Paz since 2008, a number of different activities were carried out and the project’s proposed goals were reached.
Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness
La Paz / Punta Abreojos
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Puerto PeñascoThe construction of the real estate development on El Mogote’s sand bar places it at high risk during a hurricane or tropical storm. (Photo: Ernesto Bolado)

El Mogote:
Federal Authorities allow predatory tourism development in BCS

The  controversial   tourism  com-
plex has been developed on a sand dune and mangrove forest known as El Mogote, located across the bay from La Paz’s waterfront promenade, on land that has historically been set aside for conservation and local public access.

In a press release, CEMDA states that Paraíso del Mar tried to obtain the stay, but that the 4th District Administrative Law Court in Mexico City denied their appeal.

“For all practical purposes, SEMARNAT and PROFEPA are joining forces to assure that the court’s rulings are just empty words lacking the force of law,” points out Agustín Bravo, CEMDA’s representative for the Gulf of California.  “This only adds to the enormous problem  of  environmental management in Mexico: the lack of compliance to and enforcement of, the law.”

Nonetheless, fishing in Punta Abreojos, like in other areas of the Mexican North Pacific, has felt the effects of the changes brought about in the 21st Century, such as the decline in catch and income, and in the laws.

Additionally,     Rousseau     com-
ments: “natural phenonmenon like red tides and sea temperature changes have strongly impacted our  lobster  and  abalone populat-

Such that in 2008, the cooperative members responded to a call for ideas made by the non-profit Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN by its initials in Spanish) regarding the potential conservation and use of coastal mangroves and wetlands in Mexico. One of the sites indicated as being of high priority by FMCN was   El  Coyote   estuary,  located

Cooperative turns towards sustainability
Punta Abreojos Takes a Gamble on Ecotourism

invested our capital in a new plan: ecotourism as an alternative that involves the less active part of the community.”

Located in the extreme north of Laguna San Ignacio, the Abreojos cooperative was formed in the 1930’s in response to the availability of fishing resources that were present along the coast at the time. For more than 60 years, the fishing group has invested in the red lobster and abalone concession, among others. They earned the well-deserved distinction of receiving the first eco-certification in Latin America, awarded by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2004.
Anuncio para el video Baja All-Exclusive

The first documentary that brings together and analyzes in 50 minutes the various problems that have resulted in the lack of regulations of tourism-based urbanization along the coasts of the state of Baja California Sur.

At least 450 attended the premier of the documentary “Baja All-Exclusive” directed by Carmina Valiente, in La Paz, BCS on November 30, 2010.

The room was filled by students and teachers from various high schools and universities as well as a number of public servants and others interested in the subject.

More events are planned. Don’t miss out!

The real estate consortium plans to build 3,922 residential units, a hotel complex with 2,500 rooms, two 18-hole golf courses and a 500-berth marina, all in an environmentally fragile area.

El Mogote has been declared a Ramsar site—a  wetland of   inter-
national importance—based on the criteria set out at the Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands that took place in the Iranian city of the same name in 1971.

Because of the development, the area now suffers from the impacts of the loss of habitat of various endangered species, such as the least tern, whale shark and bottlenose dolphin.

*Director, and winner of the 2006 Reuters Regional IUCN Award for Excellence in Environmenal Reporting.

An important result of the study was the evaluation of the ecological importance, current uses, and potential of the ecosystem, and this was presented to the cooperative and community members in forums in December 2009 and August 2010.

When the outlook for alternative activities   grew,   the  community
became motivated to begin an ecotourism project both within and beyond the estuary.  Currently two non-profit groups have become involved with the project: RED Sustainable Tourism, which invests in community projects, and Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN) [Northwest Environmental Defense] which is providing legal consultation services  having  to  do  with  land
and   natural   resource   manage-

The development and adoption of a management plan for the estuary is being proposed for 2012, in which both the ecological integrity of the estuary and the well being of the community would be assured.

*Resident and native of Punta Abreojos and representative for CMBC-GC Fishing and Conservation.

The other face
of tourism development in
Baja California Sur

By Juan José Cota Nieto*

Punta Abreojos, BCS – This small coastal community is one of the world’s most important areas in terms of seafood extraction and management.  However, it is having to look for alternatives for economic   community    develop-
ment because of the changes in fishing that it has undergone in the last decade.

“We have to diversify our activities, apart from commercial fishing, and involve the entire community,” says Francisco J. Rousseau, Secretary of the governing board of the fishing cooperative Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera Punta Abreojos. Therefore, without moving away from fishing, he says,  “we  have  made  a  bet  and