Last week (August 14th to 19th, 2011), Alexandra Sánchez, Juan José Cota and I, visited Mexico City to attend a conference called Segunda Semana de Intercambio de Conocimiento en la Conservación organized by Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza A.C. (FMCN). The main goal of this conference was to share knowledge, experiences and information on the different projects being supported by this organization. The conference started with daily plenary talks followed by workshops and work sessions organized in four different tracks: 1) natural protected areas; 2) forests; 3) watersheds; and, 4) coasts and oceans. These programs are based on FMCN´s focus areas and each one included discussion sessions to bring valuable knowledge and experiences on different topics. We participated in the coasts and oceans track moderated by Cecilia Blasco and Anel Garcia, where 27 presentations were held covering topics such as environmental education, public policy, fisheries management, economics, marine protected areas, ecological monitoring, fisheries monitoring and decision making models. During the three days, more than 50 people were actively participated in the discussions at the end of the sessions providing opinions and experiences in their own field.
We participated with two presentations related to our Fisheries and Coastal and Ocean Ecosystem programs. Juan Jose presented results for the project “Evaluation and sustainable management alternatives for El Coyote Estuary in Punta Abreojos”. Starting with the importance of this estuary for providing the environmental service of a mangrove system for the community Punta Abreojos, Juan Jose invited the audience to also understand the relationship of these systems with commercial fisheries. Juan Jose shared how the community of Punta Abreojos has decided to look for better management alternatives to improve their management practices by collaborating with scientist and getting involved in their projects. This particular project has introduced innovative ways of monitoring fishing activities to better understand the relationship between commercial target species and their spawning aggregation events. This research provides a solid foundation linking biological and social processes in management. The success of this story relies on the transparency of the research process that includes constant and clear communication with the communities where these projects have been implemented.
Alexandra presented “State of health of the Gulf of California reefs: An inquiry of good decisions”. Alexandra started by explaining how 14 years ago, a small group of researchers from the Gulf of California Marine Program, started an annual ecological monitoring program at 21 different sites. The idea was to have a permanent monitoring system in order to measure changes in communities of fish and invertebrates that would provide an insight into trends in the status of the reef´s health. Thanks to different donors –including the FMNC– these 21 sites have been monitored annually and the project has continued to increase over the last 14 years resulting in a total of 183 monitoring sites. This project allowed the assessment of the different sites and measured the changes after applying management strategies – or not – acknowledging sites that have not recovered and luckily, recognizing the comeback and rebounded of fish and other marine life in Cabo Pulmo National Park. Besides the already healthy state of the coral reefs and other factors such as strong community support and effective enforcement in Cabo Pulmo, the importance of generating good science and sound information for decision making is key for effective and sustained decisions that can result in the continued success. This premise applies to other examples where decisions can result in healthier ecosystems, better management and the recovery of our coastal and marine resources. With that in mind and based on the idea of ”open science”, Alexandra presented a new interactive tool called DataMARES that is an information center for the Gulf of California. It provides friendly and open access to a variety of scientific information online and display spatial data.
During a plenary session, Lorenzo Rosenzweig shared the FMCN perspective towards conservation in Mexico, which can be synthesized in two words: “collective action”. He emphasized the importance of a global vision by aiming our efforts towards regional and shared conservation agendas for capitalizing on knowledge and experiences to reach this collective action. Finally, he highlighted the importance of new alliances being made for the Gulf of California, where CONANP and CONAPESCA plan on executing efforts to collect information on watershed and coastal ecological systems to conserve natural resources and improve the region’s economy.
The conference was a great opportunity for us to meet with many people interested in sharing science, knowledge and experiences related to the sustainable use of natural resources while also hearing from experts and understanding the conservation agenda for Mexico. The conference concluded with a nice dinner and the announcement of the winners in the photography contest. We are proud to say that we obtained two 1st places in the contest. The first one was given to Juan Jose with his photo called “Carreton” and the other 1st place was obtained by Octavio Aburto with the photo called “Playeritos”. Congratulations to both of them and thanks to FMCN for the opportunity to share more on successful conservation stories!
Marcia Moreno-Baez is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). Dr. Moreno-Baez obtained his PhD at the University of Arizona. Her research has focused on the spatial dynamics of fisheries in Mexico. Her most significant work can be summarized as facilitating the practical use of natural resources, science and technology, and helping meet the growing demand for a spatially explicit planning in conservation. Alexandra Sánchez-Rodríguez completed her Master’s degree on marine and coastal sciences at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in 2010. She has been collaborating as a field technician specializing in invertebrates in the Program´s rocky-reef monitoring program since 1998. Juan José Cota received his bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) and has experience in the compilation of databases, ecosystem monitoring fieldwork, and fisheries monitoring surveys. He is the primary liaison between scientists and fishers in the fisheries programs of wetland areas (e.g., Bahia Magdalena, Punta Abreojos) and the Gulf Corvina (Golfo de Santa Clara).