Session Chairs: Angela Kemsley, WILDCOAST

In this session, professionals from WILDCOAST, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and their partners will provide conservation educators, scientists, and enforcement officials with tools to leverage the power of bottom-up, experiential, and community-based conservation projects that will clean-up southwest United States and northwest Mexico to protect the ecosystem, habitats, and species within.

The southwest United States and northwest Mexico provide a unique opportunity to comparatively study and practice conservation techniques. Southern California and norther Mexico share many of the same of the same species and populations, thereby creating mutual conservation issues between the two regions. Despite these similarities, the cultural, economic, and political systems of these two regions are vastly different presenting unique challenges when engaging communities in conservation.

In the past, conservation projects, especially in Mexico, have focused on excluding locals as community members themselves were often seen as part of the problem. These “fortress conservation” method has been shown to fail for when projects ignore the livelihoods of cultural traditions of a community, members may become resistant to efforts and have even resorted to sabotage and violence. Recognizing the importance of community engagement and building support for conservation projects from the bottom up, recent projects have been working to reconcile conservation and community by including community participation in an integral part of the conservation plan.

This session will bring together experts in the field of community-based conservation from projects both in the southwest United States and northwest Mexico. Specifically, this session will highlight the international work being done by WILDCOAST, a nonprofit, international team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife in the United States, Mexico, Cuba and the San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research, and their partners.




MPA Watch: Monitoring Human Use of Marine Protected Areas

presenting: Angela Kemsley (WILDCOAST, United States); authors: Angela Kemsley (WILDCOAST, United States)

California’s coastal and marine ecosystems are some of the most iconic and treasured resources in the state and contribute greatly to California’s history, identity, and economy. Unfortunately these same ecosystems are also some of the most exploited and, without proper care, their long-term health is in jeopardy. Designed to protect the diversity and abundance of marine life while still maintaining recreational access for people, MPAs now protect over 16%, or 850 miles, of the California coast.

Robust monitoring of the effectiveness of MPAs to conserve biodiversity is crucial to the continued success of the MPA network. Numerous efforts have been undertaken to monitor ecological change in MPAs, but none have monitored how humans are using the coastline. To this effect the MPA Watch program was created as a statewide citizen science monitoring program aimed at observing and collecting unbiased data on coastal and marine resource use.

MPA Watch is comprised of nine organizations which have collected over 17,000 surveys between San Diego and Mendocino. These data are used by organizations such as the Ocean Science Trust, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and local government officials to inform science, management, and policy decisions. The MPA Watch network model is applicable across a wide range of locations and the data collected is valuable to anywhere humans are using coastal or marine resources.


Por un mar libre de plásticos

presenting: Lizz Gonzalez Moreno (Pronatura Noroeste, Mexico); authors: Lizz Gonzalez Moreno (Pronatura Noroeste, Mexico)

Garbage in the seas is one of the biggest problems worldwide, affecting the biodiversity, the economy and the health of the population. 8 million tons of garbage are dumped every year in the world. In Baja California each inhabitant generates 850 grams of garbage, which does not undergo any separation process. The uncollected garbage is incinerated and the rest is disposed of in unsuitable places. In the holiday season, the main beaches generate 10 to 12 tons per day, much of this garbage usually end up in the sea affecting the various marine species and the tourism sector, one of the main economic activities of the region. The main waste found on beaches is plastic such as cigarette butts, bottles, bags and disposables, mainly visitors and residents who come to these sites. This situation is very similar in the northwestern states of Mexico (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit), where, in addition, there is little infrastructure for the culture of waste separation.

Given this situation, Pronatura Noroeste developed the initiative Por un mar libre de plasticos (see free of plastic), aimed at teachers which is composed of a series of didactic materials that provide teachers with the tools necessary to be implemented with their students in the classroom of classes a brief workshop with information on the contamination by plastics, the negative effects of these on nature and one of the main solutions to tackle this problem: Workbook for the student, Manual for the teacher, audio-visual capsules, among others. The initiative seeks to promote the separation of waste in schools, disuse of plastic bags and disposables in schools, composting. The initiative also seeks to promote a communication campaign called: Sin Bolsa Por Favor, which promotes simple actions to reduce the use of plastic.


Waste-Tire Recovery and Recycling Project in the California-Baja California Region

presenting: Paloma Aguirre (WILDCOAST, United States); authors: Paloma Aguirre (WILDCOAST, United States)

The U.S.-Mexico border Pacific Ocean coastline is home to 18,987 protected acres of some of the most ecologically significant coastal and marine ecosystems in the region. This area includes the 2,293-acre Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, recognized as one of 23 wetlands of international significance by the Ramsar convention; the 1,800 acre Tijuana River Valley Regional Park Preserve, which provides habitat for over 300 bird species, and the 1,930 acre Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area, which provides critical habitat for leopard sharks, bottlenose dolphins and the California spiny lobster. These areas also provide much needed nature-based recreational opportunities for some of the lowest-income communities in San Diego County. Yet, these sensitive coastal ecosystems and the health of the border region community are under threat from California-generated waste tires. Approximately one million waste tires that originate in California are exported to Mexico each year. In Tijuana, once they are discarded, they are carried with the rains impacting United States county, state and federally protected areas such as Border Field State Park, Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area.

Through WILDCOAST’s waste-tire recover and recycling project, a total of 40,000 waste-tires were prevented from entering the United States and impacting the sensitive riparian and estuarine habitat of the Tijuana River Watershed. The state of California saved over $500,000 by not having to remove these tires in the U.S. and the building blocks for a tire-derived market were created.