This article is from the February 1999 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Sea of Cortez Update  

by David Simmonds

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It has been two years now since I last wrote about a newly formed non-profit organization I had started, The Sea of Cortez International Preservation Foundation (Mexico File, February 1997). As I wrote at the time, the Sea was, and still is, in serious peril, primarily due to years of fishing practices that are rapidly depleting many species. My plans involved creating a large membership base to provide the resources necessary for educational purposes, as well as funding research projects that address the solutions to saving this marvelous body of water located between Baja California and mainland Mexico.

Although we have made many important contacts and formed alliances with others who share  the same concerns, the three working-stiff founding principals of the Foundation have just been too busy trying to make a living to have a great impact on our environmental interests.

Our most notable success has been achieved with the help of Rubio’s Restaurants, a San Diego- based, sixty-one store – and growing – chain owned by my old amigo and Mexicophile, Ralph Rubio. Along with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Birch Aquarium and Rubio’s, the Foundation had a several-month T-shirt sales program that netted us $6,300 which was critical in helping us continue to operate, even though all of our work is donated time. We are now talking to Rubio’s about how they might assist us again so we can implement what we feel is a program that will have a great effect —  artificial reef creation. This plan involves the sinking of several boats in strategic locations to create self-sustaining fish habitats and ecosystems. An added benefit is the strategic placement of these boats where they essentially “mine” the area, preventing the fishing nets from indiscriminately scraping the bottom, taking everything in their path.

So, the next question you might have is, “Why do you think all of a sudden you have the time to do the things you never had time for before? Did someone die and leave you a bundle, Rockefeller?” Actually, we brought in another old friend who wanted to make the time, Stan Dotts, who is now the Director of Foundation Development for SOCIPF. In truth, he’s just a lot better at getting these kinds of things done than we are. In three months he has us positioned to move on the reef creation, as well as spreading the word of our existence. Stan has been a long-time Baja traveler and is zealous in his commitment to help preserve the area in a responsible manner. We’re lucky to have him.

The boats to be sunk have been identified with the generous help of Tim Means, owner of Baja Expeditions. He has also been instrumental in obtaining the permits to complete this project. But even so, it costs money. The boats need to be “prepped,” made environmentally safe and diver safe. In addition to paying the necessary “fees” that always magically appear when doing business in Mexico, the boats have to be towed to the desired locations. It will cost approximately $10,000 per boat, maybe less.

Other immediate goals of the foundation are to support research projects aimed at preserving the Sea. These include:

          Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who, working closely with the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur, are working on a reef fauna study which aims to gather data on species of fish and invertebrates as a precursor to establishing viable policy and management strategies for fisheries.

          Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, the only living coral reef on the west coast of North America.

          ASUPMATOMA, which works on conservation to protect the endangered marine turtles in southern Baja.

          ECOMUNDO, which serves as a resource center in Mulegé (see Mexico File, Dec. 1998/Jan. 1999) for ecotourism and public education regarding the fate of the Sea.

If you have an interest in becoming a member of The Sea of Cortez International Preservation Foundation (a 510.c.3 nonprofit corporation), please send $35.00 to SOCIPF, 1150 Silverado, Suite 108, La Jolla, CA 92037. If you would like to talk to us to find out more, please call Dave or Stan toll free at 877-4SAVESEA.  Our still-under-construction, but visible, web page iswww.seaofcortezfoundation.org  A brochure will be available shortly.

We plan to be a significant player in the preservation of this unique body of water. Your help will be very much appreciated.