In the last 40 years, Cabo San Lucas, located at the tip of Baja Sur just 20 miles south of the Eastcape, has seen a dramatic building boom. The coast between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose went from 6 hotels in 1974 to 30 hotels in 2000. Today it is a massive stretch of 20 miles of large luxury hotels and the population of Cabo San Lucas grew from under 12,000 in 1974 to over 160,000 in 2005.
“Cabo San Lucas in 1966”
“Cabo San Lucas in 2016”
The 17- mile corridor between Cabo San Lucas is now an almost unbroken, highly concentrated chain of large beachside hotels.
Tourist Corridor Map
With beach area between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose becoming scarce, it is not surprising that FONATUR, the Mexican governmental agency charged with bringing more tourism to Mexico, considers the sandy beaches and clear waters surrounding the Sea of Cortez as a prime location for new tourist centers.
The number of proposals for tourist developments on the Eastcape (defined by BCI as north of San Jose to south of La Paz) has increased in recent years.
Why It Matters
It is very likely that tourism development will expand to the Eastcape (and around the Gulf of California). Policy makers, developers, business owners, citizens, tourists, and children all play a role in defining the kind of tourist development that will best serve the region.
This coast is home to one of the few rocky reefs with coral this far north. That reef provides food and protection to many of the 800 species of marine animals found in the Gulf of California. The reef is the central feature of the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, 7,111 square hectares of water with highly regulated fishing. (Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park Copyright: CP National Park)
The Park has also brought small businesses and jobs to the region to support scuba divers and snorklers, who come to enjoy the sealife.
The fishing regulation and the stewardship of the Cabo Pulmo community, have had great results. In a period of 10 years the biomass of the reef region increased by over 460%. Reefs that were almost barren of fish because of overfishing are now teeming with schools of jacks and other species. Sharks and giant grouper, essential parts of the food chain, have returned to the area. The health of the sea-life around the reefs provides greater availability of large fertile fish to the waters surrounding the park as well.
Citation: Aburto-Oropeza O, Erisman B, Galland GR, Mascareñas-Osorio I, Sala E, Ezcurra E (2011) Large Recovery of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23601. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023601
Habitat of endemic and endangered terrestrial species.
Data from: Uncovering the Dryland Biodiversity of the Cabo Pulmo Region, c. Botanical Research of Texas, Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers, University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States and Citation: Aburto-Oropeza O, Erisman B, Galland GR, Mascareñas-Osorio I, Sala E, Ezcurra E (2011) Large Recovery of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23601. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023601. Map Copyright: BCI
Construction of tourist centers on shore near the Park are examined closely. It is essential to keep the reefs healthy. Large construction projects may include movement of the sandy bottom of the sea, as was the case in La Ribera; sediment in the water from marina construction and sediment from dust-filled run-off from the construction site. Large hotels, golf courses, and tracts of homes produce human waste, garbage, and fertilizer pollution that can destroy water quality and have the potential of killing the reef.
Sealife is not the only endangered natural resource. Fresh water is scarce in this region. The aquifers provide water for the towns, farms, and ranches. Accurate assessments of water availability and the capacity available is essential to planning. The desert landscape is filled with plants and animals with habitats on the shoreline. Recent studies uncovered lagoon habitats that are home to species of plants found nowhere else in the world. Plantlife protects the region from erosion caused by storms and helps capture water to fill aquifers.
Other areas north and south of Cabo Pulmo face the same threats. There are sea lion colonies, humpback whale migration routes, shark nurseries, and turtle nesting sites, aquifers and rivers all along this coast. All can be damaged by construction that is not well-planned.
WHAT BCI IS DOING
BCI will contract with leading researchers to produce white papers on issues that are critical to the future of the Eastcape coast. A white paper will summarize the scientific research on topics such as –
• The source and quantity of water on the Eastcape
• The economic value of the ecosystem services such as fishing, tourism, coastal protection
• Cabo Pulmo as a “case study” for a successful marine protected area
• Definition of sustainable development on the Eastcape
• New models for sustainable tourism that maximizes quality jobs and revenue for Mexico
Similar to the Pew white papers, these summaries will serve as reference materials for government officials, non-profits, business developers, researchers, and students. Pew papers have impacted international policy and motivated international meetings. BCI’s Eastcape papers will serve the same purpose of summarizing research on key issues and providing motivation for policy meetings for the Eastcape of Baja Sur.
• BCI white papers will serve as a basic reference source to decision makers and influencers as they consider use of the coastline of the Eastcape.
• Research on key issues will cite existing research making the information easily accessible.
• Meetings of experts and stakeholders will provide the opportunity to raise issues and solve problems in a timely way
The first Whitepaper will be completed within a year of funding.
A stakeholder meeting will be convened on the topic of the Whitepaper shortly after publication.