A Brief History Of Cabo Pulmo

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Just 17 miles South East of Costa Palmas lies the small village of Cabo Pulmo, an unassuming settlement that sits at the center of one of the most remarkable national parks in the world.

Despite being the oldest of only 3 coral reefs on the west coast of North America, the reef at Cabo Pulmo isn’t large. The whole area is only 3 miles wide and 9 miles long but the coral, which grows on rocky outcrops that run perpendicular to the coastline supports an incredible amount of marine life.

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During the 18th and 19th centuries, early settlers discovered huge quantities of Mother of Pearl nestled in the reef close to the shore. Also known as Nacre, this amazing composite material is a popular commodity, widely used in architecture, fashion, musical instruments and more. Extracting the Mother of Pearl from the reef provided a reliable income source for the settlers, an income that was eventually replaced with commercial fishing.

If we fast forward to the early 1980s, professors and students from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur began to visit the community and work with the local families to study the area. Together, they realized that years of commercial fishing and pearl diving had taken its toll. Marine life was shrinking at an alarming rate.

“We had always thought of the reef as our garden where we could harvest food”, says Judith Castro Lucero, Chair of Amigos para la Conservation de Cabo Pulmo. “They began to explain to us the importance of the reef in terms of environmental services for all sea life in that region. They pointed out the damage done to the reef by anchors and heavy fishing around them. Over 10 years of working together with the college, we became slowly convinced that it was necessary and urgent to start protecting this important ecosystem.”

Together with the university, the local families petitioned the Mexican government to protect the area and in 1995, Cabo Pulmo became an official Marine Reserve, protected by the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas.

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Above Photo | Jeff Hester

The new restrictions included a variety of measures designed to protect and restore the area, most notably: no fishing (commercial or recreational). The rules in the park are strict and rightly so. With the right respect and understanding, this amazing environment can be protected for years to come

Over time, the reef delivered once again. By 2009, marine biomass had increased by 460% creating the “world’s most robust marine reserve” and the village is thriving.

The local population now rely on income from well managed snorkeling, diving and eco-tourism activities. That’s where we all come in. We’re lucky enough to spend plenty of time in the Marine Park and it truly is extraordinary, you simply have to see it for yourself.

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Above Photo & Header Photo | Octavio Aburto