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Guadalupe Island


Conservation benefit: 1,235-acre marine reserve for 10 years

Community benefit: Sea water desalination system

Date Approved: 01.2010


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

Guadalupe Island, with a total land area of 80,000 acres, is one of the most remote islands of Mexico. It also has one of the best preserved marine environments in the country. In 2007, the government decreed the Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve. Since then, the Natural Protected Areas Commission has protected the island’s natural resources. Guadalupe Island is a great example of cooperation between government and nonprofit entities to help an island ecosystem recover. (In 2000 and 2002, Seacology funded fences to keep invasive goats out of sensitive areas with endemic plant species. Goats have since been eradicated from the island.)

The island’s only community consists mostly of families who have been fishing for lobster and diving for abalone for decades. They must haul water on a rough road from a small spring 10 miles away, and their most urgent need is a water desalination plant. With Seacology’s help, the community will buy a desalinization system able to supply up to 3,000 gallons per day. The water supply could also support reforestation and restoration, particularly in the remaining patches of endemic forest.

In exchange, the community will create and protect a 1,235-acre marine reserve. Fishing, extraction of resources, damage to the sea floor, contamination or any other kind of damage is forbidden for 10 years.

Project Updates

February 2014

The desalination plant continues to operate smoothly, providing reliable fresh water for cooking and cleaning (seawater is used for toilets). The availability of water has improved life on the island by enabling children to remain on-island to attend school. The island is occupied from the months of September to June, for the lobster and abalone seasons. The Fisheries Secretary of Baja California has visited the island and project. The marine reserve has been continually protected, and no fishing has occurred in it by island residents or visitors.

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February 2013

The desalination system has been providing needed water for the community that in the past had to haul water on a rough road from a small spring 10 miles from town. The fishers’ cooperative has been respecting the protection of the area for the last year (since the agreement), but no demarcation signals or buoys have been placed for outsiders, who in reality have very little activity in the area.

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June 2011

The desalination plant was pre-assembled in April 2011 and sent to the island on April 15 on a Navy boat. The building that will hold the plant is ready. The technicians from the desalination company were scheduled to arrive on the island to assemble the plant and test its operation, and to train locals on its maintenance during late April/early May.

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September 2010

Field representative Jose Angel Sanchez-Pacheco reports that the Guadalupe Island cooperative has received the environmental impact assessment to install and operate the plant and expect to have the results of the final analyses soon. Shortly after that they will purchase the plant and install it.

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May 2010

Field representative Jose Angel Sanchez-Pacheco reports that the process to be able to install and operate the desalination system on the island needs permits and a study for Environmental Impact Assessment because it is a Federal Natural Protected Area. The cooperative of Guadalupe (recipients and beneficiaries with the system) applied for a grant from the State of Baja California Fisheries Department to pay for the study and get the permits. Currently, the study is in progress with the support of the NPA managers and it will be evaluated by authorities. Additionally, the company owner who will provide, install, and train the use and maintenance of the system was able to find a system that will be able to produce double the water capacity for the same price.

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