Pillaging fishery after fishery, always with
reckless abandon, the Mexican gillnetters have been the scourge of Baja for as
long as I can remember. Dismissing criticism with a sullen shrug, followed by their
excuse, “We have to eat and support our families,” they reduce their critics to
sympathetic co-conspirators who look the other way.
meeting after meeting over the years when the obvious shrinking of marine
resources caused by the nets seems overwhelming and the local factions become
disgusted with the devastation, their voice of reason is drowned out by the Chinchoros’
(gillnetters) loud protests and platitudes.
the devastation continues. Consider
Magdalena Bay as an example. This huge marine ecosystem which stretches 132
miles along the west coast of Baja could be the poster child of marine resource
irresponsibility. In addition to huge
increases to sardine quotas periodically as described in "Mag Bay burning,"
the gill nets are rampant, and so are the free divers who are spearing the snook
which are difficult to catch in gill nets because of the sharp gill rakes provided
by nature that cut through the nets.
2011 in "Home
grown abalone,” I wrote: “Beginning his second term
as Administrator at the beginning of the year, Enrique
Espinoza, Cooperativa Progresso Administrator's excitement is infectious
as he explains the successes of his group. His eyes sparkle as he
proudly gives the details of how the nearly 200 members voted to forbid
gillnets in the nine-mile-long La Bocana estero effective at the beginning of
2011, and the protection of Merro (black
seabass) and grouper making it illegal to catch them commercially as well as
limiting them recreationally.”
replace the loss of income for the local fishermen, Espinoza is now encouraging
members to look to sportfishing for a more reliable income stream. He is
promoting the nine-mile estuary for sportfishing, building small cabins, and
training members to conduct sport fishing trips as well.
years later there is actually a flickering candle at the end of the tunnel.
Enrique kept his promise and the results are encouraging. Gillnets have been
banned inside the Laguna la Bocana for
several years and the entire nine-mile lagoon is dedicated to sportfishing. By
all reports the results have been fantastic. The bay bass, shortfin corvina,
broomtail grouper, halibut, triggerfish and barred sand bass are thriving
absent the commercial pressure.
recent addition of Bocana Adventure by the local Cooperativa Progresso, featuring
cabins and restaurant combined with improved fishing in the lagoon should be
enough to entice recreational anglers to the area just as the Cooperativa
there is more. A few miles below Punta
Abreojos is Campo René located on Estero de Coyote, owned by the local Punta
Abreojos Cooperativa. Wider and somewhat shorter than Laguna la Bocana, the Co-Op has also restricted the entire
area to sportfishing only with similar results.
was confirmed by a recent report from David and Candida Lee from Sacramento who
spent a month driving down the Baja peninsula, stopping at Campo René before
continuing to East Cape to fish the beaches there. On their return they visited
Capo René for a second time. "We are in Campo René and have had an amazing
second visit here, catching some UNBELIEVABLE fish! David hooked and landed a
50-pound white sea bass on a 6-weight trout rod. Lots of grouper, corvina and snook. According
to the managers, gillnets are not allowed in the Estero!" They wrote in an
Between the two Esteros, there is a total of maybe
35 square miles of water and habitat, both without gillnets and both producing
fantastic sportfishing. I suppose that it would be too much to imagine that Magdalena
Bay with its hundreds of square miles of Esteros would ever consider a similar
me crazy, but I am going to continue to dream of a day when the Baja powers
that be smarten up and the rest of Baja's esteros are allowed to blossom.