Carl Safina, Punta Abreojos Day 1
Editor’s Note: Carl Safina is a Pew Fellow, MacArthur Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, writer of 5 books, ecologist, marine conservationist and member of One World One Ocean’s science advisory team. This is the second in a series he is writing from Baja Mexico this week.
Punta Abreojos (Point Open-eyes) lies about 50 miles north of Laguna San Ignacio. Eddie Kisfaludy flew us up from the lagoon. It’s a small, dusty town, bookended by desert and sea. Coyotes walk the streets with some frequency, and ospreys’ huge stick nests adorn many of the utility poles.
The draw here is a 60-year-old fishing cooperative so oriented to conservation and sustainable fishing—and to patrolling their area against outside pirate-fishing—that their catch has been certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Not only do they do an excellent job of managing; they get a better price.
On our first morning, Javier Villavicencio took us out to see how members of the cooperative catch Red Rock Lobster. They launch their 23-foot boats by resting them on an axle with car tires, then pushing them by hand into surf. It works surprisingly well.
It’s only about a mile or two to the lobster grounds. The season has just closed so we pulled a few traps for demo purposes, showing how they monitor their lobsters in the off-season.
After coming ashore we watched three boats come ashore with several thousand Kelp Bass they’d caught with traps. They ride right through the surf and beach their boats; a tractor then hooks them and hauls them high and dry.
We went next to the town’s fish-processing facility, which seemed a perpetual work in progress. We were here to see how they breed the big snails called abalone in captivity. A couple of years ago, toxic algae blooms called red tides killed nearly half the abalone in nearby waters, so the fishermen decided to try breeding them to augment natural reproduction. We saw plate-sized breeders, and many tiny juveniles. So tightly do they hang on to rocks—or in this case their tubs—that the adults were impossible to pry off by hand (there’s a special tool for abalone-prying). The juveniles are going out in nearby fishing areas and people are monitoring to see if they really augment natural numbers once they’re out in the cold, cruel world.