Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Mexico Creates Vast Marine Sanctuary Around 'Galápagos Islands of North America'

Animals

Mexico has created North America's largest marine park—the size of Illinois—in the Pacific Ocean to protect hundreds of species including rays, whales and sea turtles, an area referred as the Galápagos Islands of North America.


The announcement on Friday by Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto fulfilled an October promise to transform a 57,000-square mile swath of ocean holding four islands into a protected area. Mexico's National Commission of Protected Natural Areas took the largely uninhabited, volcanic islands 240 miles southwest of Baja California, and expanded a small reserve that extended six miles off their shores. The expansion came one year after the vast rectangular territory was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

Previously, the six-mile strip of protection didn't offer sanctuary to a variety of species in the path of fishers, leaving sharks, rays and whales as either commercial fishing bycatch or targets of illegal fishing. Friday's announcement means all fishing activities will be banned within the protected expanse.

On shore, the Mexican president's decree will ban the extraction of natural resources and construction of hotel infrastructure on all four islands. The Mexican Navy will maintain a small presence on the islands.

The Environment Ministry and Navy "will carry out surveillance, equipment and training activities that will include remote monitoring in real time, environmental education directed at fishermen and sanctions against offenders," said President Peña Nieto in his announcement.

The move was described as an "important precedent" by María José Villanueva, the director of conservation of WWF in Mexico, according to local media.

"With the goal of guaranteeing maximum protection of this World Heritage Site, our national legislation's strongest conservation category will be used, and all forms of fishing will be prohibited," Alejandro Del Mazo Maza, a representative of Mexico's National Commission of Protected Natural Areas, said in an October statement.

Commercial fishing interests met the statement with criticism given that the expansion will affect seven percent of the Mexico tuna fleet's Pacific range.

But there is a flip side for commercial fishing. Since the waters lie on the convergence of two ocean currents, the islands' waters are a gathering point for migratory species. It is hoped that the newly afforded status will help populations recover from commercial and illegal fishing's damage. This will mean an increase in fish stocks. The growing fish populations will likely spill over into commercial waters—in effect mimicking what happened in Galápagos when the Ecuadorian government enacted a similar ban on fishing in 1998, turning adversaries into supporters.

The protection status is also expected to boost the dive industry, already worth an annual $15 million.

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In an alarming new study, scientists found that climate change is already harming children's diets.

Read More Show Less