BY MIKE STEVENS
Decision devastates related businesse, leaves the area vulnerable to poaching, and it could affect long-range sportfishing.
Guadalupe Island was closed to tourism by the Mexican government on Jan. 10. effectively shutting down shark diving operations and “liveaboard diving” among other activities including but not limited to television and film production. At this point, how it will affect the long-range fleet and its access to permits to fish Guadalupe is unclear, but a WON source close to the matter who wished to remain anonymous said it’s not looking good.
Sportfishing along with cage diving had been suspended from May through December of last year to ‘make it possible to gather information that will guide activities and the adoption of the best sustainability practices that guarantee the conservation of the aforementioned populations,’ according to a translated statement issued by the Mexican Government.
Based on the data gathered by Mexican officials during that closure, a new “Management Plan for Guadalupe” issued on Jan. 9 included the following statement: ‘White shark observation may not be carried out in the Reserve for tourist purposes, to avoid altering their habitat, behavior and feeding sites, and thereby preserve and conserve the species.’
Along with the economic losses that will come with closing off what’s arguably the shark diving center of the universe, it will also leave Isla Guadalupe vulnerable to poaching and other illegal activities. That constant presence of fishing, diving, eco-tourism and other conservation-minded operations worked effectively as a deterrent to criminal activity.
“The closure of Guadalupe Island has the serious and real-world potential to absolutely endanger the largest great white sharks in the world. If the largest fins in the world have no on-site protectors, it’s a golden opportunity for the illegal fishing industry,” said Carlos Guana, wildlife filmmaker behind the popular Instagram and YouTube account, TheMalibuArtist which features incredible footage of sharks just off the California coast. “The Mexican government’s attempt to protect the island may likely backfire as a result of the abandonment of the island. While eco-tourism is banned, commercial fishing is inexplicably allowed to continue in the waters around the island? How does that make sense? Commercial fishing is still allowed in the waters. And the biggest fins in the world may likely be poached without any eyes on the island.”
The conservation concerns don’t end in the waters surrounding Guadalupe Island or even those off Baja’s entire west coast. Located about 260 miles from Point Loma and 130 nautical miles off the coast of central Baja, Guadalupe also serves as a breeding ground for the great white sharks that swim the waters off of California and all over the Pacific.
“The thing most folks do not realize about the closure of Guadalupe Island, or at least it is evident because nobody is talking about it, is that the closure is not something that only affects Mexico,” said Guana. “It has the high probability of affecting the whole Eastern Pacific. Where do you think those mommas that give birth to all those sharks on the West Coast go? Guadalupe is that important.”
Horizon Charters was one operation bringing divers to Guadalupe Island, and this decision has the San Diego-based outfit currently rebranding as a sportfishing business. That’s just one local example of the economic disaster created by this ruling.
“Now is the time to get a sound monitoring in place and plan for what will be a serious threat to the sharks,” added Guana. “This is not about cage diving, it’s about finding solutions to keep an ecological treasure safe. “I strongly suggest you watch my latest YouTube video discussing the facts around the closure and the context needed to understand the full story. There are several layers about this story to consider. Unfortunately, the loser in all of it is the sharks. I hate to be the predictor of bad things but that’s not a hard prediction to make given the corruption in commercial fishing and the government’s tendency to turning their shoulder.”