Photo credit Stuart Sandin
An Ecological and Economic Baseline for the Revillagigedo Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, Mexico
Revillagigedo is a protected archipelago that harbors high
biodiversity, and attracts increasing dive tourism. However, it
suffers from poaching of mantas, sharks, and pelagic fishes.
At Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, an ambitious, international research project was led by second-year IGERT students. This student-conceived project is a collaboration between IGERT students and Mexican students from Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur in Mexico. The students assessed the diversity and abundance of marine life and quantified the economic benefits to tourists and the tourism industry in Revillagigedo Biosphere Reserve in Mexico as compared to similar systems in the Gulf of California. The project studied both the direct effects of protection from fishing to marine life and the indirect effects on human activities and values. Results were communicated to school children in both San Diego and La Paz and with the tourism industry as well as managers in the Gulf of California in the hope of informing future formation and configuration of protected areas.
Participation in this project provides an unparalleled opportunity for these students to engage in interdisciplinary marine conservation research of both scientific and societal relevance. Collaborative, multifaceted research endeavors are an integral part of the doctoral program at the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC). These students have truly amazed us with their imagination and energy, tackling something far more challenging and far-reaching than we anticipated. This student-led expedition could serve as a model for other such expeditions led by SIO grad students in the future.
Pincelli Hull, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, Yuliana Bedolla (Proyecto Fauna Arrecifal, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur. La Paz, Mexico) Fiona Tomas-Nash,
Jason Murray, Kate Hanson, Melissa Roth
Kristen Marhaver, Sheila Walsh, Maria Damon
Enric Sala, Carlos A. Sanchez-Ortiz (Proyecto Fauna Arrecifal, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur. La Paz, Mexico), Stuart Sandin
The project objective was to establish and economic and ecological baseline for the marine system of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico. The baseline provides the first quantitative data for the marine fihs and macroinvertebrate communities, including information about distribution, abundance, biomass and value to the tourism trade. Comparisons between Revillagigedo and similar regions in the Gulf of California contrast the structure and the economic value of the relatively pristine Revillagigedo marine systems and relatively degraded Gulf systems. Combined, the economic and ecological data could serve as a basis for the monitoring and research program proposed in the management strategy plan (Ortega et al, 1995) of the Biosphere Reserve.
Full Report (pdf) Poster Presentation (jpg)
Reef Fish Community Structure
Two Revillagigedo islands harbor a biomass of fishes greater than any in the Gulf of California and among the highest ever reported for a rocky reef ecosystem. The fish communities with high biomass are dominated by pelagic top predators such as jacks.
Revealed Diver Preference
Divers prefer to observe dolphins, mantas, and sharks. When preferred species are absent, divers continually scan instead of looking at non-target animals. The current fee for dive tourists is only $2 per day. The average diver is willing to pay $50 per trip for reef conservation of mantas and sharks. A small catch-and-release sport fihsing business could more than double the potential funding for conservation from dive tourism alone.
Revillagigedo is under-utilized for eco-tourism; Increase tourism and fees could enhance funding for conservation
A catch-and-release sport fishery should be thoroughly investigated for:
its potential to increase protection of the islands through conservation funds
its potential to negatively impact the marine communities
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0333444
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Can Recreational Diver Surveys Lead to Conservation Action?: A case study from the Revillagigedo Archipelago.