Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Angling and diving area wins development smack down



Not an everyday occurrence, but it barely raises eyebrows when a yellowfin tuna or dorado is taken from the beach in this area.
Ray Cannon wrote about the area and its steeply sloped contoured bottom plunging to 100 fathoms a mere quarter of a mile from shore.

Punta Arena, often referred to as the Lighthouse, has been a long-time angling favorite for locals and visitors alike. Ray Cannon wrote about the area and its steeply sloped contoured bottom plunging to 100 fathoms a mere quarter of a mile from shore. Nowhere else in the Sea of Cortez will you find depths that close to the shore. Not an everyday occurrence, but it barely raises eyebrows when a yellowfin tuna or dorado is taken from the beach in this area. Trophy-sized roosterfish are often landed here practically is the shadow of the towering lighthouse.

A little farther down the beach toward Baja's tip, Cabo Pulmo was another of the jewels of the Baja mentioned by Cannon.  The pristine beaches of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park border a shallow bay that is home to one of only three hard-coral reefs that exist in North America. Surrounded by an undeveloped desert and a remarkable mountain range, the Park was established in 1995 after the over-fishing by commercial and recreational fishermen caused an alarming decline in marine life. At one time it was slated for development, but thanks to the efforts of local and international conservation groups, it is now a protected national park, a regenerative area for hundreds of species which includes four of the seven species of sea turtles that arrive here to nest on its beaches, or breed and forage in surrounding waters.
In the 16 years since Cabo Pulmo was protected, the fish community has recovered and is now considered among the most healthy in the Sea of Cortez making a case for the importance of protected marine areas.

For the past several years much of the property, including the beachfront from the Lighthouse at Punta Arena in East Cape to the northern edge of Cabo Pulmo, has been purchased by a group from Spain.

The Alicante (Spanish) group, Hansa Urbana, with approval already granted by environmental authorities planned a mega-development covering 3,800 hectares, an area the size of the city of San Jose del Cabo, the largest of all of the proposed developments in the Cape region. The project will include a marina dug into the coast, golf courses, homes, hotels and condos, a new airport for private jets plus a commercial center and a small city to house workers. Future projections include upward of 20,000 people adjacent to Cabo Pulmo and Punta Arena with up to 30,600 hotel rooms, or 10,200 more homes.

In an area that is sparsely populated that contains fragile ecosystems and a limited water supply, a larger population is not sustainable.  Along with many other locals, the director of the Cabo Pulmo National Park, Javier Alejandro Gonzalez, voiced his concerns that a development of this magnitude would overwhelm the fragile eco-system of the area. Their views were shared by a group of environmental NGOs that have formed a coalition to fight for the reef and to stop the development.

That group is led by the U.S. [NGO] Wildcoast; the Mexican [NGOs] Niparaj√°, Pro Natura Northwest, Community and Diversity, [and] Friends of Cabo Pulmo; [and] academics from Scripps Center in the U.S. and the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur.

Fay Crevoshay, the Communications Director of the Wildcoast, argued that the several golf courses for the tourist citadel will have "used chemicals that will flow into the sea when it rains and will kill the coral."
She also said it is "schizophrenic" for Mexican authorities [to have created] a national park, which they preserved for years, and then "they grant a permit to a developer in order to destroy it."

According to the Gringo Gazette, a local newspaper in Los Cabos, Representative Elvira Quesada of Semarnat, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources at the federal level, said that the Cabo Cortés development is currently being reviewed by more than 100 scientists from many different organizations who are working on the environmental impact statement which is needed for the project to continue. This is the first time that various oversight agencies have worked together on an impact statement. More studies are needed besides the impact statement and they will take years to complete. For the project to continue, these studies must prove beyond any doubt that no harm will come to the protected Cabo Pulmo Marine Park.

It appears that with the Government’s renewed interest, along with the economic woes of Cabo Cortes, Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, along with one of the richest fishing and diving sites in Baja California Sur, will remain safe for a while longer.