The Gulf of California is the most important fishing region of Mexico. It produces more than half the country’s annual fish catch, through a variety of coastal fleets spread over several states. Some of these coastal fleets operate within natural protected areas, which is why knowing who uses the resources, when, how, and why becomes of crucial importance. Within the Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta, works a fleet of about 760 vessels with fishing permits for several species. The Gulf of California Marine Program team has worked since 2009 in the region, implementing and strengthening the Citizen Science program, which, together with fishermen, carries out three kinds of monitoring efforts: biological, fishing, and spacial. The information produced is shared with users, government, and other research institutions.
Our work focuses on the four main fisheries in the Upper Gulf: blue shrimp (Litopenaeus stylirostris), curvina golfina (Cynoscion othonopterus), bigeyecroaker(Micropogonias megalops), and the Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus concolor). We have managed to identify the spatial and temporal patterns of each of these fisheries, in order to understand how current fisheries and conservation regulations affect fishing and vice versa. Understanding these dynamics will help in the design of management strategies within and outside MPAs. Specifically for the Upper Gulf, this work has allowed us to identify the points of interaction between the fishing fleet and priority species like totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and the vaquita marina (Phocoena sinus).
Fisheries management strategies and conservation should not only protect and maintain biodiversity, but also the economic and cultural livelihoods of coastal communities. Collaboration in producing the information and during the process of data analysis and interpretation has helped us to identify and understand the dynamics of fishing activities in the region. We have come to understand the importance of fishing for each community and identified the pressure they exert on the populations of the resources utilized. Our team will continue to work so that this knowledge is taken into account when designing management and conservation plans, as we believe it provides insight into the wealth that exists in the Gulf of California.
Catalina López Sagástegui completed her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur and received a Master’s degree in biodiversity and conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is a Scholar in Residence at UC MEXUS and focuses on describing and analyzing current and past efforts involving the communities in the Upper Gulf of California, scientists form US and Mexican institutions, as well as government and non-government groups working together towards conserving the vaquita marina and managing regional fisheries.