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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Baja Hot Spot

Ban fishing from an area of the sea and, the theory goes, that area's fish population should recover and may even flourish. Now scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have proved the theory by surveying a thriving undersea wildlife park tucked away near the southern tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula.

Citizens living around Cabo Pulmo located some 60 miles northeast of Cabo San Lucas, established a marine park in 1995 and have strictly enforced its "no take" restrictions, leading to the area's new reputation as a biodiversity "hot spot." Results of a 10-year analysis of the area revealed that the total amount of fish in the reserve ecosystem boomed more than 460 percent from 1999 to 2009.

The researchers report that the area's reefs are full of hard corals and sea fans, creating an amazing habitat for lobsters, octopuses, rays and small fish.

Such strictly enforced marine reserves have been proven to help reduce local poverty and increase economic benefits, says study lead author Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, a Scripps postdoctoral researcher. Cabo Pulmo's marine-life recovery has spawned eco-tourism businesses, including coral-reef diving and kayaking.

—Mario C. Aguilera, '89