Citizen Science in Community Marine Recovery Zones in El Rosario, Baja California


Marine Reserves

OBJECTIVE: To establish a network of marine recovery areas in the Ensenada Cooperative’s fishing concession to recover abalone populations (Haliotis sorensi and H. assimilis) and to protect the kelp forest, which is essential for the life cycle of abalone and other commercial species.

In 2011, the Ensenada Cooperative, based in El Rosario, reached out to COBI to assess the possibility of implementing marine recovery zones, also known as marine reserves, in its fishing concession in order to recover the abalone species, which had become scarce due to overfishing.

In 2012, the Cooperative and COBI held a workshop, where they spent several days analyzing the characteristics of the area and picking the best places to implement recovery zones.  That same year, COBI signed an agreement with the Cooperative to cease fishing in four sites and to monitor the recovery of the ecosystem. COBI trained a group of ten divers from the Cooperative in submarine monitoring techniques and, since 2013, these dives have been carried out on a yearly basis, providing important, first-hand data about the ecosystem recovery in these zones.

In 2013, Stanford University joined the project and installed three oceanographic sensors in two of the sites, which measure environmental variables like pH, temperature, and oxygen. Fishers from the Cooperative were trained to manage, maintain, and retrieve data from these devices. These sensors belong to a larger network of sensors placed throughout the Pacific coast of Baja California. Data provided by this network of sensors has permitted the detection of regional climate phenomena like hypoxia episodes (low oxygen events at sea) which strongly affect sessile organisms.

The abalone recovery project has yielded good results. Organisms are increasing, and the Cooperative expects to reopen this fishery soon, and plans to follow sustainable extraction practices to avoid another crisis of near-extinction.

Now, the Cooperative wishes to develop new fisheries completely focused on sustainability, and to create a community savings fund to ensure the long-term financial viability of these projects.

  • 11 certified divers in scuba and submarine scientific monitoring techniques
  • 4 marine reserve zones
  • 3 oceanographic sensors
  • Stanford University
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Productos Pesqueros Ensenada
  • Reef Check

This project is constantly evolving, and your support is key to making an impact on marine conservation and sustainable fishery. The following list details our current project needs. You can also donate directly to COBI by contacting our donations team: Let’s all do our part!

  • Media interested in highlighting the citizen science project in El Rosario
  • Donations and funding for submarine monitoring and maintenance of the network of oceanographic sensors
  • Financial consulting on how to create a community savings fund for marine conservation and sustainable fishing that would ensure the long-term financial viability of the project
  • Volunteers with relevant knowledge, skills, or experience
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