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Mexico

Isla Natividad

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Conservation benefit: Protection of a 1,120-acre area, including three islets, for a minimum of 10 years

Community benefit: Two cabins for ecotourists, surfers, and scuba divers

Date Approved: 06.2011

Ocean

This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Natividad Island is only about 4.2 miles long by 1.4 miles wide, but it holds more than 85 percent (30,000 nests) of the world’s population of the black-vented shearwater. The shearwater is a bird species that occurs only on the west coast of Mexico and southern California. The island also provides nesting grounds for gulls, cormorants, and pelicans. The beaches are breeding grounds for elephant seals, sea lions, and the common seal. The island and five kilometers of surrounding waters are part of El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve.

About 400 people live on the island of Natividad. Many of them catch abalone and lobster for a living and belong to the local fishing cooperative (Buzos y Pescadores de Baja California). The community is working to conserve its natural resources by recycling, minimizing pollution, and obtaining green certification for their products. They wish to protect the northern portion of the island and three nearby islets by prohibiting access, except in emergencies. Federal Natural Protected Area managers will assist with protocols, regulations, and enforcement, and will monitor the agreement.

The cooperative is seeking new sustainable livelihoods and has attracted interest from surfers, scuba divers, and ecotourists. But they need better accommodations for guests. Seacology is funding construction of two cabins to host visitors to the island. The benefits from the rental of the cabins will go toward improvements in the community and conservation of the island.

Project Updates

February 2014

The two cabins were rented many times in 2013 and occupied by a total of 95 people for an average of two days at a time. Most were Americans arriving by their own planes, or by boat from Punta Eugenia, half an hour away. Most tourists are surfers, but some are campers looking for a place to relax or explore. The cabins opened a new venture for the community, which now has a vision of offering packages, advertising and growing their business into something low impact and sustainable with higher income. For now they were able to afford a truck to move the guests from the cabins to the restaurant and to visit their small village. Word of mouth from recent guests is bringing more clients. The cooperative (pretty much everyone on the island has something to do with the coop) have done a very good job in improving the service to their guests by installing a new solar water heater, operating a special septic tank that decomposes the waste into dust and requires no maintenance, and issuing and enforcing rules about the recycling of trash. Regulations being enforced include the exclusive use of just few roads of the island (mostly to protect the nesting burrowing seabirds – shearwaters and auklets), no exterior lights (the birds are sensitive to it), and no campfires. Everything they do is very green and with a long-term vision. Signs are up, and the cooperative continuously remind their members to avoid driving or walking beyond the signs of the protected area.

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June 2013

The cabins are being rented already, primarily by surfers. A Seacology expedition visited this project in February 2013.

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January 2012

The cooperative leaders have obtained the permit needed from the El Vizcaino Natural Protected Area to build the cabin. The project is being changed to build two cabins, with cooperative members providing additional funding needed for completion. The conservation area rules have been defined. The only activities to be allowed in the protected area are conservation and research, which require a permit. Mexico Field Representative Jose Angel Sanchez-Pacheco traveled to the island in December, and reported that a tourism committee has been formed to promote the island as a destination. Jose reports, “Most impressive is how much the island has changed from my last visit. It is cleaner, they recycle all their trash, they protect their seabirds and fisheries, they made illegal the use of plastic bags, and in general it is an awesome place…”

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