Helping Restore Reef Fish in the Archipelago Espíritu Santo National Park



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Only 14 miles from the city of La Paz lies the archipelago known as Espíritu Santo, one of the most beautiful island groups in all the Sea of Cortez. The beautiful landscape and bays make the islands a highly desirable destination for locals and visitors alike. In 2007 the Mexican government declared the islands a National Park to protect its diverse ecology for present and future generations.

But over the past 20 years the entire Sea of Cortez, including Archipelago Espíritu Santo, has seen its reef fish populations decline, due in large part to illegal fishing. The main illegal fishing methods deployed by “encerradores” and “pistoleros” use “hookah” diving equipment at night (hookah gear is a hose from a surface air compressor allowing illegal fishermen an unlimited air supply). Encerradores “herd” reef fish into nets and pistoleros use Hawaiian slings to spear reef fish at night while they are sleeping. Between them, pistoleros and encerradores can kill up to one ton of reef fish per boat in one night.

To confront this threat, the local, grassroots campaign “Espíritu Santo es parte de ti” aims to engage the La Paz community to stop illegal fishing and help the recovery of the reefs around Espíritu Santo National Park. The campaign will generate community pride by advocating responsible fish consumption and avoid eating fish that are critical to the ecology of the park’s reef ecosystem. The focus is on parrotfish, a keystone species vital to the health of reef ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable to pistoleros.

The parrotfish owes its name to the resemblance of its mouth to the beak of a parrot as well as to its vivid, intense colors. It inhabits both coral and rocky reefs in tropical waters around the world and provides a critical service to maintaining reef health. Four different species of parrotfish live in Espiritu Santo National Park.

Parrotfish are grazers, feeding predominantly on algae that grows on rocks and corals. Their grazing activity prevents the overgrowth of algae which is detrimental to a healthy reef ecosystem. Without parrotfish and other reef grazers algae would quickly smother rock surfaces, preventing encrusting organisms from attaching to the rock surface. In short, parrotfish are the cultivators of diversity in reef ecosystems.

The key strategy of the campaign is to recruit restaurant owners and chefs in La Paz to not serve parrotfish and be promoters of the campaign. To date, 27 of the 33 top restaurants in La Paz have agreed to not serve parrotfish and to share our message with their clients and the public through our videos on social media. The largest Supermarkets in La Paz (Walmart, Chedraui and Soriana) have also stopped selling parrotfish.

To foster pride in the community the campaign has produced 35 videos showing the beauty of Archipelago Espíritu Santo and the threats that it faces. Six videos are of restaurateurs talking about why they feel the campaign is important and the importance of Espiritu Santo to the local economy. Since the launch of the campaign, our videos have had over 1.5 million views on the campaign’s Facebook page.

The campaign is succeeding because there are greater numbers of parrotfish, small cabrilla (grouper) and snapper – the three fish species most targeted by illegal fishermen on the reefs around Archipelago Esprítu Santo.

 What can YOU do to help?

You can help ensure the protection of this beautiful and critically important fish – the parrotfish – and the ecological recovery of our beloved Archipelago Espíritu Santo National Park!

  1. Thank the following restaurants who joined our campaign and agreed to not serve parrotfish:

Nim Azul Marino Las Tres Virgenes Anzuelo Prana
Mc Fisher La Barcaccia Stella El Mangle Sorstis
Odayaka Jiro Sushi La Gaviota Los Laureles Palapas el Vado
El Cayuco El Pato Mr. Fish Moyeyos Toro Guero
Hermanos Gonzalez Nómada Tacos Tere Los Claros Tacos Albatros
Las Glorias

 

       

2. Ask your fish provider to not sell parrotfish. Show them this article! Request a “Free of Parrotfish” kit that includes brochures and stickers to hand to your favorite restaurants or fish markets. Send us pictures and share them on social media, tagging us @Espiritusantoespartedeti.

If you want a kit e-mail us at: espiritusantoespartedeti@gmail.com

3.  Donate to the campaign through Seawatch and get a U.S. tax deductible receipt. www.seawatch.org

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