Chasing Down The Muse: Reversing the course of species extinction

June 02, 2011|By Catharine Cooper

"The last fallen mahogany would lie perceptibly on the landscape, and the last black rhino would be obvious in its loneliness, but a marine species may disappear beneath the waves unobserved and the sea would seem to roll on the same as always."

—– G. Carleton Ray in "Biodiversity"

National Academy Press, 1988


Last week I had the honor of attending the Conservation Science Symposium in Loreto, BCS, sponsored by the Ocean Foundation and a consortium of charitable foundations.


Researchers, scientists and resource managers from the United States and Mexico joined local community members in a dialog about conservation in the Gulf of California and Baja.

For the most part, Baja California is a rugged and arid desert region with mountain ranges that separate the Pacific Coast from the eastern Sea of Cortez. There are small eco-systems within the overall peninsula that affect fisheries, agriculture and the availability of water.

The symposium was broken into multiple tracks with presentations ranging from "Protected Areas and Biodiversity" to "Species of Concern." Overarching was a discussion of community involvement, government interaction and how to manage conservation for the most effective outcomes — both to habitat and to human populations.

The conversations begun were lively. Everyone is a stake holder — whether a developer who wants to grade down a mountain for a real estate development (and disrupt and/or destroy a watershed in the process) or a fishermen, whose entire livelihood is based on the bounty of the sea. In many ways, it is only now, in this age of rapid and constant information exchange, that we become increasingly aware of the effects of our actions and activities.

In the northern Gulf of California, there is small dolphin, the Vaquita, that has been seen by few human beings. It is the smallest — less than 5 feet long, with calves the size of a loaf of bread — and rarest cetacean on earth. It is estimated that less than 200 remain. When they are seen, they are tangled in the shrimp fishermen's gill nets and drowned — adults, juveniles and newborns.

Coastline Pilot Articles Coastline Pilot Articles