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The Whales of Guerrero facilitates community-driven conservation in the fishing village of Barra de Potosí and throughout the southwest Pacific State of Guerrero, Mexico, pioneering a new approach to coastal protection that cultivates local leadership through citizen science, peer learning, and community outreach. After ten years of collaborative marine mammal research, the seeds of stewardship have taken root in our region. We want to help them bear fruit by galvanizing an emerging group of Fishery and Conservation Leaders who will lead the community toward long-term marine restoration and conservation.
A conscientious and connected community that is putting the common good of each other and nature first for lasting health.
Transform the relationship between people and nature through programs that inspire and empower.
THEORY OF CHANGE
Local leadership is key to effective marine conservation; citizen science, peer learning and ecotourism development cultivate community stewards
Selected 2022-2023 programs:
- Support the new community center (for meetings, trainings and visitors) in Barra de Potosi
- Support women’s ecotourism and business and personal development activities
- Senderismo guide training and development program for women
- Community planning/vision making work
Whales and dolphins
- Assist unified, informed, empowered authorized guides in the monitoring and protection of marine mammals
- Whale and dolphin disentanglement training and volunteer network
- Identify and create no-go, limited access or limited speed protection zone for humpback whale mother calf pairs
- Year-round scientific and opportunistic citizen science data collection of whales and dolphins
- Whale fiesta (annual greeting ceremony and closing celebration)
- Publish minimum 3 scientific papers about whale and dolphin research in 2023
- Follow up on completed community learning exchanges (Oaxaca, Papanoa) and project leader exchanges in Canada, the US, Baja and Mexico City
- Increase public awareness re: best practices with marine mammals (non-authorized guides, private boat owners, general public, fishermen)
- Women go whale watching program
- Continue and strengthen workshops and educational programs for children (support partner organizations through fundraising and staff support)
- Find funds to support all activities
- Expeditions and day trips
- Individual donors
- Corporate sponsors
- Fundraising events, dinners and presentations
- Feature our work in NatGeo programs and documentaries
Related programs that we will also support as liaisons and via data sharing but not lead, plan or fund:
- Explore alternate, sustainable options of fishing (oysters are the primary interest)
- Bring fishing experts to region to help with fishery
- Citizen science fishery study
- Citizen science study of birds, lagoon life
- English classes
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
A VERY SPECIAL NATURAL REGION OF MEXICO NEEDS PROTECTION NOW.
Protecting Endangered Whales Calls Focus to the Area as a Place Worth Saving.
Bahia de Petatlan, Laguna Potosi and the small fishing village of Barra de Potosi are facing accelerated environmental degradation. The fisheries throughout Guerrero are in a state of collapse. Runoff pollution is bleaching our corals and making our wildlife sick. Climate change is causing more frequent, violent storms every year and affecting the temperature and acidity of the ocean. In recent years, FONATUR, (Fondo National de Turismo), the Mexican national trust fund for tourist development approached cruise ship lines with an offer for a pier to be built in front of the estuary fed by Bahia de Potosi. Fortunately, the proposal was eventually abandoned, mostly likely due to financial challenges and pressure from the local community. Not only does the open water host a population of migrating whales and countless species of fish, bird and sea life, but a 450-acre estuary surrounds the 600-person fishing village located at the end of the beach. A local group of concerned citizens is fighting to remove the threat of future development. A healthy ecotourism industry, deep environmental education programs, published scientific evidence identifying the region as critical habitat for hundreds of marine and terrestrial species, and an empowered, organized community of local leaders could tip the scales in favor of protection.
Disempowered Locals Need Work and Options
In recent years, the fish population appears to have declined, mostly likely due to an increase in commercial gillnet fishing and climate change. Local fishermen are growing desperate. Many resort to harvesting endangered turtle eggs and other illegal activities as a means of survival. Creating a viable, responsible whale watching industry along with other sustainable ecotourism options will help to alleviate this financial pressure.
WHEN THE WHALES WIN, EVERYBODY WINS
Good for Science:
Our participatory marine wildlife surveys will give us a clear understanding of the local humpback whale population size and movement patterns and identify how all large marine animals utilize and inhabit the local environmental. Our humpback whale study is helping us to understand survival rates for whales entangled in fishing nets, establish a protected migration corridor for humpback whales along the entire West Coast of North America, and to define the boundaries of distinct humpback whale population segments.
Good for Nature:
A census of the visiting whale population will be valuable data that can be added to petitions in progress by local environmental organizations to create a protected sanctuary of the region. We will have established working partnerships and communication between respected whale watch companies along the entire Western Pacific Coast.
Good for Whales:
We will design and launch a safe whale watch awareness campaign about whale watching in Barra de Potosí and region-wide to disseminate safe whale watch opportunities and information, facts about humpback whales and safe whale watching season dates and guidelines. Workshops led by local, national and international leaders in whale conservation and identification will be conducted among local and visitor populations, leading to an increased awareness about the whale population and safe whale watching practices.
Good for Local Business and Tourism:
A sustainable, responsible whale watch company will give local fishermen extra means to support themselves and their families. A core group of 40 seasoned safe whale watch guides will monitor and enforce a culture for new guides to follow that will support Guerrero’s reputation as a place where safe responsible whale watching occurs .
Field trips and expeditions with local, national and international students and nature enthusiasts will create further work opportunities and bolster local pride and awareness.
An increase in awareness about the presence of whales and dolphins in the area will encourage ecotourism in the area. In addition to whale watch guides, local women artists, restaurants and lodging hosts, and thousands of others engaged in tourism activities will benefit from this new activity.
Good for the World:
Whales of Guerrero is a working prototype that is being actively applied to other small low income country villages with consistent charismatic megafauna populations and underemployed communities. We will continue to exchange our knowledge and experiences with scientists, teachers and conservationists around the world through hosted site visits, publications, presentations and learning exchanges worldwide.