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Working for Marine Conservation in Baja California Sur


Photo of Governor Leonel Cota Montaño, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

CONSERVATION-MINDED--Governor Leonel Cota Montaño of Baja California Sur, Mexico, center, last week in La Paz with Juan Antonio Flores Ojeda, the state Director General de Comunicación Social, and state Coordinator of Tourism, Maribel Collins Sánchez. Photo by Gene Kira.


By Gene Kira, June 2, 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:

Although he isn't an official candidate, Governor Leonel Cota Montaño (PRD) of Baja California Sur was listed in the newspapers recently as one of the "presidential-able" possibilities for Mexico's national elections in 2006, and I was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with him in La Paz last week.

I was in the middle of a series of meetings with Baja Sur's charming and very busy State Tourism Coordinator, Maribel Collins Sánchez, who works closely with the governor and arranged the interview because of his interest in one of our principal topics of discussion: marine conservation.

On Wednesday morning, we were lead through a series of anterooms at the Palacio de Gobierno into Governor Cota Montaño's paneled inner office, and I found it a little disconcerting to be trying to conduct an interview in Spanish with two photographers circling around us like hungry seagulls and clicking their cameras at us from all directions.

The first thing I can tell you is that Governor Cota Montaño looks just like his pictures, rather patrician and academic, more like an Ivy League history professor than a politician who fought his way past the entrenched PRI into the governor's mansion ("The Caimancito," which he refused to move into, and is turning into a public aquarium.).

Secondly, it came as a pleasant revelation to learn that Governor Cota Montaño is extremely cognizant of conservation issues; he talked about so many programs--lead by his new Instituto Estatal de Ecología--that I was not able to keep completely up with him.

I had come to the interview loaded for bear to pepper the governor with questions on problem areas all over Baja California Sur, but he beat me to the punch on every issue. One after another, he ticked off his concerns about: commercial gill netters at La Playita, violations inside the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, Bahía Magdalena, Loreto, the Sea of Cortez, the dolphin pens at La Paz, and many others.

As he put it: "With 22.8 percent of Mexico's coastline, our state possesses immense marine wealth. Baja California Sur is a conservationist state by necessity. The destiny of Baja California Sur is profoundly linked to a conservationist strategy that simultaneously permits the development of our communities and the preservation of our natural resources."

But politics is the art of the possible, and perhaps the most telling moment of our interview came when Governor Cota Montaño gave me a knowing look and a wry smile when I asked how much progress can be accomplished by a single Mexican state--even Baja California Sur--against the dragging anchor of the federal government, and it's PRI-holdover agency of Sagarpa, which control fisheries policy.

In all fairness, one would not expect the governor of Baja California Sur to make rash statements to impudent foreign reporters, and of course, I didn't get any. Nevertheless, the impression I got is that Governor Cota Montaño knows exactly what's going on, and he's working the system to make improvements as quickly as possible; we tourists must resist our tendency to confuse the progressive state government of Baja California Sur with the ludicrously out-of-touch fisheries policies of the federal government.

The street in La Paz is that Governor Cota Montaño will not declare himself a presidential candidate for the 2006 election. But it has been suggested that, if the PRD can make significant inroads, this very conservation-minded leader may possibly end up with a position at the cabinet level.

That opens up a fascinating possibility.

Wouldn't it be an ironic turn of events if the governor of our very own state of Baja California Sur were to find himself in charge of federal fisheries policy, say, as the Secretary of Sagarpa?

That would be a fantastic drama almost too sweet to contemplate, and if it ever happens, I'm reserving a front row seat on the Sea of Cortez to enjoy the show!

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")