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East Cape Commercial Fishing Rumblings



By Gene Kira, March 8, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:

In all of Mexico’s 7,000 miles of virtually unregulated coastline, there is only one place where it’s really tough to get away with illegal commercial fishing--East Cape.

This precious section of sportfishing-dominated coastline, only about 30 miles long, stretches roughly from Martin Verdugo’s Beach Resort in Los Barriles, south to about Punta los Frailes.

In the whole country, if there is ever going to be any real marine conservation movement, it will have it’s birth right here, and in some ways, you could say that it’s already happening.

What’s so special about the East Cape fishing area?

The difference between this historic coastline and the rest of Mexico is that--more than anywhere else--almost everybody at East Cape depends on the sportfishing or diving industries to support their jobs and businesses. They need those fish alive and swimming around, or they can just hang it up and get a job in a shoe factory somewhere.

At East Cape, even a small pod of lowly winter sierra can make a client happy and result in several hundred dollars of income for the area. Marlin, tuna, and dorado are many times more valuable than that.

At the Cabo Pulmo marine park, you’d have to figure that a single, gigantic grouper, viewed by hundreds of divers over the years, could result in many thousands of dollars for the local people.

It’s no wonder they don’t want those “cha-ching! cha-ching!” fish killed and sold at the wholesale market for a few pesos.

At the Fred Hall Show and in the steady stream of emails that arrive from all over the world, I noticed a certain intensity last week, even a feeling of anger, coming out of East Cape that seems to indicate a local population increasingly fed up with having its livelihood threatened by illegal fishing.

Mark Rayor of the Vista Sea Sport dive service was almost giddy in his hopes for real results, following a meeting with officials at Cabo Pulmo on the afternoon of February 28, 2004. At this meeting, a 15-member team of civilian guardians was announced that will watch over the park and report poachers to Profepa, Rayor said.

Most significantly, the motivation for this program comes from within Mexico. “This is the first Mexican meeting I have ever attended and come out of satisfied,” Rayor said. “More than satisfied! There were about 30 people in attendance. It cracked me up when the local gringo residents were informed you had to be Mexican to be a vigilante. They can hold positions in the organization but no badge.”

Can this be the real thing coming? Perhaps. Perhaps.

If marine conservation is politically possible anywhere in Mexico, it is possible at East Cape. The low bluffs along this coastline are studded with strongly pro-conservation hotels--Verdugo’s, Palmas, RBV, Spa, Leonero, Colorada--that sit like fortresses protecting the fish.

Between those hotels, all along those bluffs, are big American houses full of highly-magnified eyeballs, training their binoculars and telescopes on the sea at all hours.

All they’ve ever needed to get the job done was someone to report violations to, and it looks like that may finally be happening now.

Passions are running high. One European regular at East Cape said, “I would give up my life, if I could become an inspector, for just three meals a day.”

This isn’t a good time to be a gill netter at East Cape.

There is much work to be done. Many gross violations occur daily, even here. But at East Cape, there is a political will among foreigners and Mexicans alike to protect the precious, vulnerable, beautiful sea. There is change in the air. Let’s all work together and make it so.

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