MSP for integrated fisheries management in the Northern Gulf of California, Phase I

Published: 03 November 2017
Last edited: 30 September 2020
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In the Biological Corridor from Puerto Peñasco to Puerto Lobos, Sonora a coastal -marine spatial planning and ecosystem management process is emerging. It is a framework to resolve growing conflicts between different stakeholders/users in the region and a mechanism for building ecosystem stewardship. Through a bottom-up process, traditional users (fishers & oyster farmers) are engaged in designing spatial solutions with a management team including scientists and government.


North America
Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Salt marsh
Fisheries and aquaculture
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas governance
Science and research
Sustainable livelihoods
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services


Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico | Bahía San Jorge, Punta Jagüey, Santo Tomás, Desemboque de Caborca, Puerto Lobos


As described by fishermen the main problems  in the corridor ecosystem are: 1) Lack of fishing permits; 2) Illegal fishing (lack of compliance with the law); 3) Lack of surveillance and enforcement (lack of application of the law); 4) Entry of fishers from other areas with restrictions; 5) Distance from large cities and elevated costs; 6) Conflict with industrial fishers; 7) Lack of adequate management tools; 8) Loss of landing sites as coastal development increases.  Other challenges that have been identified include: 1) lack of social structure or experience for working together to solve problems within the fishing sector, between communities, and between local, regional and national government authorities; 2) changing socio-political dynamics and management restrictions in the adjacent Upper Gulf of California/Colorado River Biosphere Reserve, where the primary management driver is the conservation of two endemic and endangered species: vaquita and totoaba.


The first phase of the project targets mostly traditional users: 1076 small-scale fishermen from six communities and 150 local wetland users from six wetlands are the primary beneficiaries with government and scientists benefitting as well.

How do the building blocks interact?

CEDO's approach balances community development and ecosystem management. Our fundamental building block is trust and meaningful relationships. This is accomplished first by engaging communities to identify their needs, which usually involves socio-economic issues, and helping address the problem from their perspective. Creation of a governance structure and process which is transparent, inclusive and involves interactions with other sectors to find solutions develops meaningful relationships and collective action.  Capacity building through education strengthens communities for working together and making good decisions.  Active participation of stakeholders in all aspects of the process, providing opportunities to contribute by  generating information,  communicating, and making decisions, is essential to maintain engagement, promotes an active society taking responsibility for their future. By integrating traditional knowledge and science to produce a science-driven process, we help create a common language for all stakeholders that becomes the standard for measuring effectiveness of management. Stakeholders participation in monitoring strengthens the design of fisheries and ecosystem management tools.


The fishing communities of this Corridor were mostly unorganized and had little experience working together to find solutions. The continued and active participation of fishers to improve resource management is a testimony of a positive impact. They have designed and agreed upon a variety of fisheries management instruments:  1) fisheries refuges (protecting about 5% of the area); 2) locally managed areas (which even in their conception are strengthening stewardship); 3) permits and 4) catch quotas (the latter two help control fishing effort and overfishing). The process is strengthened with regular capacity building exercises and activities such as monitoring and workshops for designing management tools, seeking meaningful engagement of fishers in planning for their own future. The creation of a governance structure with the local users at the center, where they have access to government and scientists, creates a transparent process which helps build confidence and stewardship for the management plan within and between communities. The proposed solutions focus on fishers' primary economic activity, address their needs, help clarify rights and reduce conflict. It is too early to see the environmental impacts of this solution, but the spatial management instruments are designed to improve fisheries catch while offering protection of key habitats and species at the same time.


CEDO Intercultural

In 1996, CEDO did the first assessment of small-scale fishing in the Upper Gulf of California and that is where we met a group of commercial divers, who expressed concern about their diminishing resources. The black murex snail and rock scallop were their most important fisheries and so we worked together to create some voluntary reserves and to monitor them. We developed a management plan for the scallop, and fishers were given exclusive use to a type of local management area. Due to the nature of their work, diving, they required more cohesion and cooperation than other fishermen, and this group was exemplary. They were granted Mexico's National Conservation Award in 2003.  And, more importantly, their resources started rebounding and they became firm believers in the potential benefits of marine reserves or refuges. Despite their good management practices, however, by 2012, more fishers entered the region and began exploiting the diving resources, depleting them one by one, even without permits. In the divers attempt to get the government to enforce the law, they found themselves more vulnerable.  Enforcement became the limiting factor and it became clear that their call for help would not be heard unless we could get the attention of the government, at a scale that they would listen to.  It was also clear that we had to engage the stakeholders that were illegally taking resources without concern for sustainable management. This helped us define a new scope for fisheries management that would encompass all of the users within a defined area. Our research had helped us identify this area and the communities that would be involved. Getting the six communities of the Corridor involved was a challenge, as they were not at all organized and many did not have permits, but they understood that this left them vulnerable. Through many hours of workshops, talks, and planning, the dynamic has changed and now many fishermen have become strong spokes persons for their participation in improving management. A threshold for change has been reached both within local communities and with the government, who is learning about a new way to manage resources.  Once the management intruments are formalized and implemented, the positive environmental impacts will be transparent to all and this will seal the support of more of the region's stakeholder in this process for self-governance.

Contributed by

Peggy J. Turk Boyer Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and

Other contributors

Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans , Medio Ambiente y Comunidad CEDO, A.C.
Medio Ambiente y Comunidad CEDO
Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans