The first reserve in the Puerto Peasco area was established in 2001 around an island. Cudney-Bueno and other researchers, working with a Mexican nonprofit organization (Centro Intercultural de Estudios de Desiertos y Ocanos), trained the fishermen to monitor shellfish populations in and around the reserve. "The response was really quick, so they could see a classic reserve effect one year later," Cudney-Bueno said. "That led to more areas being closed, and the first paper shows the effects of the network of reserves."
The cooperative was so successful it was recognized by the Mexican government with a Presidential Conservation Award. But word spread quickly along the coast about the thriving shellfish populations in Puerto Peasco, and other fishermen from outside the community began to move in and poach from the reserves. After poaching began, the system of cooperation that had established and protected the reserves broke down.
Now, the situation is beginning to improve again, Cudney-Bueno said. The Mexican government has created one of a handful of exclusive fishing zones in the Gulf of California, giving the local cooperative the exclusive legal right to harvest shellfish in the Puerto Peasco area.
"They now have a strong management plan with legal rights and government support, so I think they will be able to get back to where they were before the poaching started," Cudney-Bueno said. "I see it as part of the evolution of a management system. Social change takes time, and it really hasn't been that long. A lot is happening now in Mexico and around the world as local people are increasingly asking for control over their resources. Various fishing communities in Mexico, including lobster and abalone fishermen in Baja California, have moved forward with the establishment of their own marine reserves and government-bac
|Contact: Tim Stephens|
University of California - Santa Cruz