By Gene Kira, March 22, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:
During the last several weeks, I’ve built up a five-megabyte email folder--and a Mexico phone tab I don’t even want to think about--concerning what I at first thought to be a lot of dumb panic over a Mexican commercial longlining position taken by the U.S. conservation organization, Defenders of Wildlife.
Defenders of Wildlife is a large non-government organization or “NGO” based in Washington, D.C., that busies itself by promoting all kinds of conservation programs around the world.
You can see their slick website at www.defenders.org, where their logo has pictures of: a wolf, owl, bear, some kind of wild cat, parrot, can’t tell, otter, and porpoise.
To put things in perspective, Defenders of Wildlife’s annual report says that during 2002, more than 430,00 individuals and organizations donated more than $20 million to them. Their balance sheet shows net assets of $16 million and they also announce moving into their new headquarters, a nine-story building “within several blocks of the White House.” This may not be The Nature Conservancy (2002 cash contributions, $390 million), but you get the picture.
The problem with Defenders of Wildlife first surfaced last year when it became apparent that--in conjunction with the revision of Shark Norma 029--they supported a 30-mile limit on longlines in Mexican waters, as opposed to the 50-mile limit adamantly demanded by every other involved NGO.
The crucial point is that the Sea of Cortez is more than 60 miles wide in some places. Permitting longlines to within 30 miles of the coast would allow a deadly dagger of commercial fishing right up the middle of the Cortez to about Mulegé, and in another area south of San Felipe. A 50-mile limit would keep longlines out entirely.
I was not pleased by the Defenders of Wildlife position, but I considered it a mild threat, since they have in the past concerned themselves mainly with such things as selling $25 “Adopt-A-Wolf” memberships and---until about a year and a half ago--have had virtually no part in the bitter Mexican fisheries battles going back decades. I couldn’t believe anyone in Mexico would take them seriously on commercial fisheries matters.
But I was so wrong!
Seriously or not, Defenders of Wildlife’s position has now been cunningly exploited by the pro-commercial fishing federal government as justification for longlining inside the Sea of Cortez!
Remember the date of Friday, March 19, 2004.
On that day last week, the true damage of the Defenders of Wildlife backing of a 30-mile limit was revealed when Javier Usabiaga, Mexico’s Minister of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fishing, and Food Production (SAGARPA), came to Cabo San Lucas and said, in effect (paraphrasing from sources present): “We have a very important U.S. NGO (referring to Defenders of Wildlife, but not actually using their name) and the whole commercial fishing industry saying the 30-mile limit is proper. Since there is no scientific information available to the contrary, we are inclined to agree with them.”
Usabiaga, it should be noted, works directly under President Fox. Regardless of any other meetings being held elsewhere, or what anyone is indignantly emailing to anyone, this man’s word can be considered the best indication of what is actually going to happen now.
And that, mis amigos, truly sucks.
This is a disastrous betrayal and defeat for all the NGOs that have worked so hard and so long for marine conservation in Mexico.
Defenders of Wildlife--a foreign NGO having no insider knowledge of the very dirty world of Mexican commercial fishing, and no personal experience with the terrible destruction that has occurred over the past 40 years--has been duped into believing SAGARPA (SAGARPA!) would actually enforce a 30-mile limit, with Vessel Monitoring Systems and a human Observer Program. What a sad travesty!
There are individuals in Mexico who dream of profiting from the lucrative contracts for an Observer Program that would most probably be funded under the proposed new shark norma in order to feign “monitoring” this longlining of the Sea of Cortez.
Defenders of Wildlife’s naive and uninformed position--a gift coming from outer space--has now unwittingly made those individual’s dreams much closer to reality. I’m sure they are laughing their nalgas off in Mexico City.
(Related Mexico articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Mexico information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Mexico area in "Mexico Fishing News.")