Monday, September 28, 2009

An Open Letter to Mexico’s Congress on Shark Ecotourism

In April of 2008 Shark Diver was made aware of several allegations regarding Isla Guadalupe shark diving eco tour activities and the perception of those activities within the Mexican Government.

We decided to act. Here was our response in May 2008. To date not one of the Deputies from Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee has responded to our open letter.

The fleet wide allegations were simply incredible, while they have since been refuted by other agencies within Mexico we have a long way to go with members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Note: Given the nature of these allegations "media control" at this pristine shark site has never been more important. Understandably videos like the recently released Shark Song play into the anti-shark diving lobby agenda here.

An Open Letter to Mexico’s Congress on Shark Ecotourism

In April 2008, after marking up a legislatorial Point of Agreement regarding the “non-extractable exploitation of white shark at Guadalupe Island,” Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the federal Chamber of Deputies submitted its negative findings Point of Agreement to the lower house of Congress as a whole, where it now awaits action.

All of which relates to supervised shark diving (in cages) adventure and ecotourism activities that take place within Mexico’s Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve, located in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. Activities that the Mexican government, after due study and review, has authorized through the issuance of a limited number of federal permits to Mexican and foreign tour operators (plus the requisite permits vessel owners/operators or their agents must obtain).

Following a long introductory review and criticism (with a number of unsubstantiated and/or arbitrary “facts”), the Environment and Natural Resources Committee calls for the federal government not to authorize shark watching activities at Guadalupe Island, “insofar as it may not have been determined if these practices change the behavior of this species, creating a risk to its population, the marine fauna of the area, and local fishermen.”

As well, the Committee is calling for Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, through its Attorney General for the Protection of the Environment and in coordination with the Secretariat of the Navy, to carryout increased vigilance and oversight in the ocean area to insure that all of the rules and regulations in the 2005 decree, that designated the land and waters off Guadalupe Island a natural protected area, are followed.

May 11, 2008

An OPEN LETTER to members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, Honorable Congress of the Union, Mexico, D.F.

Honorable Deputies of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:

Diego Cobo Terrazas, Chairman
Jesús de León Tello, Secretary
José Luis Espinosa Piña, Secretary
Lucia Susana Mendoza Morales, Secretary
Benjamín Hernández Silva, Secretary
María Mercedes Colín Guadarrama, Secretary
Aleida Alavez Ruiz
Armando Barreiro Pérez
Edmundo Javier Bolaños Aguilar
Juan Hugo de la Rosa García
Adriana Dávila Fernández
José Antonio Díaz García
Emilio Ramón Ramiro Flores Domínguez
José Guillermo Fuentes Ortiz
Martha Hilda González Calderón
Christian Martin Lujano Nicholas
Cruz Humberto López Lena
Sergio Augusto López Ramírez
María Soledad López Torres
Beatriz Manrique Guevara
Carlos Roberto Martínez Martínez
Roberto Mendoza Flores
Fernando Quetzalcóatl Moctezuma Pereda
Víctor Manuel Méndez Lanz
Jorge Rubén Nordhausen González
José Ascensión Bárcenas Orihuela
Martha Angélica Romo Jiménez
Víctor Manuel Torres Herrera
Rafael Villicaña García
Carlos Ernesto Zatarain González

Esteemed Members of the Chamber of Deputies:


Several allegations have come to our attention regarding ecotourism activities of the white shark cage diving tour operators at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Your meeting minutes of April 3, 2008 state the following (translated):

1. "As well, it is mentioned that the techniques used by these tourist service providers in order to attract white sharks puts at risk the ecological balance in the area, the habitat and populations of this species, since their boats carry containers with sanguaza (blood of different origins mixed with water), and bait that they dump into the sea once near the island with the aim of attracting sharks in order to see them rise to the surface or jump. It should be noted that the sanguaza consists of blood from different origins, (which) could have been fishes, fowls or mammals, and in some cases (it) has the remains of entrails mixed with water."

2. "These boats pour out the sanguaza at night so that the essence can remain in the sea, and the next day they can assure tourists (of) the presence of white sharks around this. Another of their methods, although it is utilized to a lesser degree, is the use of pinniped (sea lion, seal or elephant seal) shaped lures, combined with marine mammal oil, a situation that obviously violates federal legislation."

3. "As has been mentioned, the practices used in order to attract these species are so inadequate that they have modified the behavior of white sharks in the area, as well as its local distribution. This change of its behavior will create a potential risk to the populations of sea elephant (Mirounga angustirostris) and Guadalupe fur seal (Arctocephalus townsendi), as well as abalone fishermen."

4. "Regarding sanguaza, this must be considered hazardous waste and even potentially infectious, therefore its use to attract could result in the spread of pathogen agents or viruses that may be potentially infectious and harmful to the marine and terrestrial fauna of the region."

We would like the opportunity to refute these allegations, and to speak directly with any members or deputies of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. What you have been made aware of at this pristine site is factually incorrect, and it does a great disservice to the overall positive efforts that this fleet, in good faith, has put forward within the Biosphere Reserve boundaries of Isla Guadalupe over the past seven years of operations.

If this site, and the fate of a large percentage of the Pacific’s white shark population, is to continue to thrive the actions you take in coming months will be a deciding factor. We ask that the esteemed members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee come to understand exactly how these white shark operations are run, and how this fleet, on its own accord, has made great strides in building a long term ecotourism benefit for Mexico.

We stand ready and committed to working with the Mexican government in developing this site as a world class ecotourism and white shark research destination. These small steps have already begun at this site, and we would like to introduce you to them.

Respectfully,

Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415-235-9410

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