Story | 16 May, 2018

Designing innovative sustainable financing solutions to improve the management of the marine protected area Espiritu Santo, La Paz, Mexico

During the first INC meeting in the marine protected area Espiritu Santo, 9-11 April 2018, on the ground initiatives gave inspiration to design of new financial mechanisms that will help Espiritu Santo reach its financial goals.

The IUCN Incubator for Nature Conservation (INC), helps nurture and shape innovative ideas for making and channeling revenue to finance protected areas. Through this programme, IUCN works with partner sites around the world to set up sustainable financing systems in protected and conserved areas.

Espiritu Santo is a marine protected area (MPA) located 28 km from La Paz, in the south of the Gulf of California in Mexico. The site is part of the 90 islands of the Gulf and it contains unique ecosystems, vulnerable habitats and a considerable number of marine species. As Jacques Cousteau said, the Gulf of California is “the world’s aquarium”. The visit to the island shown that the wide resources of this region offer a high potential for tourism and fisheries and thus opportunities to design innovative financing solutions for the conservation of this precious area.

Since 1995, the islands from the Gulf of California are designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The Marine Protected Area of Espiritu Santo has been created by the Decree of the 10 of May 2007 and became part of the IUCN Green List ten years later, in 2017.

IUCN experts first met partners from the Mexican Commission for national protected areas (CONANP) and the Mexican Fund for the conservation of Nature (FMCN) in Mexico City to learn about Mexican protected areas functioning and funding.

During the visit of the island, the team witnessed the efforts deployed by its partners from the Espiritu Santo management team for the conservation of the site.  Between observing sea turtle monitoring activities and experiencing one of the main touristic activity, swimming with sea lions, the team got an overview of the financial issues the protected area is facing. An MPA, especially around an island, is an open protected area, everyone can have access to its resources by boat. Surveillance of touristic and fishing activities should be constant, while the costs of daily-trips from La Paz to the island are high. Thus, regular costs can be higher than a terrestrial protected area. They also need more staff to cover the surveillance and monitoring activities. Despite the existing source of funding and the managing structures, Espiritu Santo needs a financial boost to achieve its conservation objectives.

After the visit, the community fishing organization NOS (Noroeste Sustenable) gave inspiration to design possible sustainable fisheries financing mechanisms. The local community of Manglito, supported by NOS, has succeeded in restoring the seabed of their fishing area for the development of a sustainable fishing model which already provides incomes for the fishermen and their families. Inspired by their achievements, IUCN and its partners considered a proposal for the development of sustainable fisheries financial mechanisms around the Island Espiritu Santo.

During the last day of this meeting, a brainstorming session was organized to develop ideas for how to achieve the sustainable fisheries mechanisms proposed. A workplan was drafted, a sustainable financing solution for Espiritu Santo is on the tracks and we hope that it will start bearing its fruits at the end of 2019.