Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

Country
Mexico
Inscribed in
2005
Criteria
(vii)
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "critical" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
The site comprises 244 islands, islets and coastal areas that are located in the Gulf of California in north-eastern Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and its islands have been called a natural laboratory for the investigation of speciation. Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the property, giving it extraordinary importance for study. The site is one of striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters. It is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, 90 of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species. © UNESCO
© IUCN/Elena Osipova

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
04 Dec 2020
Critical
While management of some of the individual component protected areas comprising this serial World Heritage site is effective, threats from over-fishing, bycatch, pollution, exotic species, tourism development and climate change are significant across the entirity of the site. Despite unprecedented efforts to strengthen law enforcement and surveillance activities, illegal, unregulated and unsustainable fisheries remain a concern for the protection of the World Heritage values. The lack of decisive progress in combatting illegal fishing activities in the Upper Gulf of California has led to the near-extinction of the vaquita, an endemic porpoise only found in the Gulf of California. The main cause of the continuing decline of this species is its bycatch in illegal gillnets used to fish for totoaba, a critically endangered fish highly praised for its swim bladder in Asian markets. Despite unprecedented efforts by the Government of Mexico to address the issue, including through inter-agency cooperation between CONANP, the Mexican Navy and other partners, the population of the vaquita has continued to decline towards imminent extinction. This situation has led to the inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2019, with a critical conservation outlook.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Critical
Trend
Deteriorating
Large parts of this serial World Heritage site and many key species and habitats remain relatively well preserved. However, despite unprecedented efforts to strengthen law enforcement and surveillance activities, illegal, unregulated and unsustainable fisheries remain a concern for the protection of the World Heritage values. The lack of decisive progress in stopping the illegal gillnet fishery in the Upper Gulf of California has led to the near-extinction of the vaquita, an endemic porpoise only found in the Gulf of California. Results of a recent ecological assessment of all marine protected areas in Northeast Mexico also show that while marine areas in parts of the World Heritage site remain in good condition, in other components they are in poor condition and showing decline, particularly in south-eastern parts along the coast of Nayarit state.

Overall THREATS

Very High Threat
Threats to the marine resources of the site have been increasing. The bycatch of the vaquita in illegal gillnets used to fish for totoaba is the main factor leading to its current status of being in immediate danger of extinction. The impact of bycatch on other marine species (i.e. other cetaceans, turtles, seals and shark as well as other fish species) has not been assessed yet, but is most likely high. The illegal fishing of totoaba also poses a very high threat to the values of the site, even though it is concentrated in the Upper Gulf only. Other threats include pollution from farm agricultural, shipping and coastal developments and are expected to increase. The increasing impacts of climate change will particularly impact corals, calcifying organisms, and coastal wetlands. Although still not very well understood climate change has most likely a direct impact on the productivity of the Gulf of California, thereby also impacting the fish stocks.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
The site has a sound management system, with highly dedicated CONANP staff responsible for the management of individual component protected areas which comprise this serial World Heritage site. While no integrated management structure of plan exists for the entire site, coordination between different protected areas and management units appears to be well organized in practice. Years of working with the communities has led to generally good relations and a number of highly successful programmes have been developed, including monitoring programmes with participation of local communities. Despite unprecedented efforts to strengthen law enforcement and surveillance activities, the situation with illegal fishing in the Upper Gulf remains of high concern. While concentrated in one area of this large serial site, it shows overall vulnerability of the system to illegal and unregulated fishing activities.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
04 Dec 2020

Description of values

Striking natural beauty

Criterion
(vii)
This serial World Heritage site is of striking natural beauty and provides a dramatic setting due to the rugged forms of the islands, with high cliffs and sandy beaches contrasting with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters. The diversity of forms and colours is complemented by a wealth of birds and marine life. The diversity and abundance of marine life associated to spectacular submarine forms and high water transparency makes the property a diver’s paradise (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

A natural laboratory for the study of speciation and oceanographic processes

Criterion
(ix)
The site represents a unique example in which, in a very short distance, there are simultaneously “bridge islands” (populated by land in ocean level decline during glaciations) and oceanic islands (populated by sea and air). Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the site, giving it extraordinary importance for the study of marine and coastal processes. These processes are indeed supporting the high marine productivity and biodiversity richness that characterize the Gulf of California (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Diversity of terrestrial and marine life

Criterion
(x)
The diversity of terrestrial and marine life in the property is extraordinary and constitutes a global priority for biodiversity conservation. On land, the close to 700 species of vascular plants are notable within a desert environment. There are 115 species of reptiles, almost half of them endemic, in some cases even to individual islands. 154 land bird species have been recorded and the property is of particular importance to migratory species. Almost 900 species of fish have been documented with some 90 species occurring exclusively in the Gulf of California or parts of it. The World Heritage site provides habitat for about 35% of the world’s total number of cetacean species, including the smallest one, the critically endangered vaquita. In addition a large number of California sea lion colonies occur throughout the site. The endangered Blue Whale and Fin Whale as well as the vulnerable Sperm Whale also visit the area. In addition, the serial site includes a good sample of the Sonora desert ecosystems, considered one of the richest deserts in the world from the desert biodiversity point of view (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Assessment information

Very High Threat
Threats to the marine resources of the site have been increasing. The bycatch of the vaquita in illegal gillnets used to fish for totoaba is the main factor leading to its current status of being in immediate danger of extinction. The impact of bycatch on other marine species (i.e. other cetaceans, turtles, seals and shark as well as other fish species) has not been assessed yet, but is most likely high. The illegal fishing of totoaba also poses a very high threat to the values of the site, even though it is concentrated in the Upper Gulf only. Other threats include pollution from farm agricultural, shipping and coastal developments and are expected to increase.
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Introduction of exotic species on islands)
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
The main threat for the native species of the islands is the introduction of exotic species such as cats, rats, and goats, which are set loose (or have been set loose in the past) on purpose or by negligence by people from tourist yachts or fishermen who camp on the islands. These introductions radically alter delicate island ecosystems (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; CONANP, 2006).
For several islands successful actions have been taken to eradicate and/or control alien or exotic species, as well as to conduct research on how to reach eradication (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Impacts from tourism)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Tourists and other visitors such as research scientists can degrade island and coastal habitats, cause erosion, leave wastes and litter, and disturb the breeding grounds of birds and sea lions. Looting of archaeological sites, deforestation of dunes and tree-felling also occurs (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). Whale watching occurs in several areas and has the potential for disturbing cetaceans; however, currently there are no indications of negative impacts (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
Surveillance, monitoring, closed seasons, and compliance of regulations by tourism and industrial companies are important and have been implemented in a number of areas.
Marine/ Freshwater Aquaculture
(Shrimp farming)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
The continual development of shrimp farming, in conjunction with municipal and agriculture effluents has raised concerns about: a) depletion of fish stocks, b) reduction of mangrove forest, c) frequent harmful algal blooms in coastal waters and shrimp ponds, and d) water quality deterioration (Páez-Osuna et al., 2003). A study by Barraza-Guardado et al. (2013) indicates that the material load in shrimp farm effluents in Bahía de Kino change biogeochemic processes and the health of the coastal ecosystem. Further assessment of the impact under consideration of other sources is needed.
Water Pollution
(Pollution)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Pollution from farm run-off, boat fuel, plastic flotsam and sewage are on the increase in the Gulf, and are expected to get much worse as tourism development continues around the region (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; Bath and Putney, 2010) and as the human population density increases. In comparison to other regions of the world, the pollution levels in the Gulf of California remain relatively low to moderate. However, contamination hotspots are found for metals and metalloids, in sites where mining spills have occurred and for nutrients and pesticides, in wetlands that receive discharges from intensive agricultural and shrimp farming. Locally pollution can be very high, such as in coastal lagoons in Sinaloa (Orduña-Rojas and Longoria-Espinoza, 2006), and Guaymas Bay (Ortiz-Lozano et al., 2005). There are still numerous coastal environments in the Gulf of California where the scope of pollution sources and events have been poorly studied (Federico Páez-Osuna et al., 2017).
Tourism/ Recreation Areas
(Tourism infrastructure development)
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Analysis by WWF indicated that urban and tourist development in the Gulf posed a major threat to the region (Cisneros-Mata, 2010). The construction of ill-conceived large-scale tourism resorts can overburden the ecosystems and natural resources, such as fresh water supply, local communities depend upon.
Fishing / Harvesting Aquatic Resources
(Bycatch of non-target species)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Bycatch and entanglement of non-target marine species in fishing gear can pose a major threat to local wildlife. Bycatch occurs mainly in gillnet fishery which causes mortality of small cetaceans such as dolphins and the vaquita, larger whales such as the Bryde’s whale, seals, turtles, sharks as well as other non-target fish. The illegal gillnet fishery in the Upper Gulf of California has been identified as the main cause for the high extinction risk of the vaquita (Rojas-Bracho and Reeves 2013; UNESCO/IUCN, 2017, UNESCO/IUCN, 2018). Gillnets are used by the illegal totoaba fishery, but also by the regulated curvina golfina and shrimp fisheries (UNESCO/IUCN, 2018). For the regulated fisheries, measures have been undertaken to develop alternative gears, which would not cause entanglement of the vaquita and other bycatch species (State Party of Mexico, 2018, 2019, 2020); however, progress with the introduction of new solutions has been slow. Illegal fishing for totoaba also remains a very serious threat and has been reported to have escalated further recent (UNESCO, 2019).
Fishing / Harvesting Aquatic Resources
(Over-fishing)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
Over-fishing of marine resources can occur from both artisanal and industrial fishing. Trawling, shrimp trawling, the use of line and depth seines and harpoons and the (illegal) overfishing of commercially important and endangered species such as the totoaba, are all contributing to the gradual degradation of this rich sea. Currently, over 85 percent of the Gulf’s fisheries are either at their maximum sustainable yield or overexploited (Cisneros-Mata, 2010).
A recent study (Arreguin-Sanchez et al., 2017) concludes that most of the observed changes in fish stocks are also strongly linked to climate effects. They recommend that management measures for fishery should be guided by an adaptive strategy in which harvest rates are consistent with year-to-year biomass availability and ecosystem dynamics.
High Threat
The increasing impacts of climate change will particularly impact corals, calcifying organisms, and coastal wetlands. Although still not very well understood climate change has most likely a direct impact on the productivity of the Gulf of California, thereby also impacting the fish stocks.
Ocean acidification, Temperature extremes
(Climate change)
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
By 2050, climate change is expected to increase temperatures by 2 ºC, and decrease rainfall by 20% with high variability from season to season and year to year.
Climate change is also expected to impact the local communities. For the past two years the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) has supported CEDO (Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans) to help the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve develop a strategy to understand and reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities facing impacts from Climate Change. Their work includes the identification of communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, broadening awareness in the region, developed two training manuals to be used by local communities for monitoring and evaluating climate change indicators. CEDO also has been working with the Special Areas for Protection of Flora and Fauna in the Midriff Islands and other partners to model ocean acidification and temperature impacts on the Northern Gulf ecosystem and will continue advancing understanding of vulnerability in coastal communities throughout the Gulf of California.
At this point it seems that climate and climate change are an important, but not completely understood (Arreguin-Sanchez et al., 2017) source of variation that should be incorporated, together with ecosystem information, within scientific advice for management (i.e. fishery).
Threats to the marine resources of the site have been increasing. The bycatch of the vaquita in illegal gillnets used to fish for totoaba is the main factor leading to its current status of being in immediate danger of extinction. The impact of bycatch on other marine species (i.e. other cetaceans, turtles, seals and shark as well as other fish species) has not been assessed yet, but is most likely high. The illegal fishing of totoaba also poses a very high threat to the values of the site, even though it is concentrated in the Upper Gulf only. Other threats include pollution from farm agricultural, shipping and coastal developments and are expected to increase. The increasing impacts of climate change will particularly impact corals, calcifying organisms, and coastal wetlands. Although still not very well understood climate change has most likely a direct impact on the productivity of the Gulf of California, thereby also impacting the fish stocks.
Management system
Mostly Effective
Management of the World Heritage site is exercised by the National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP), a specialized agency of the Mexican Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). CONANP is a decentralized agency, and direct management activities for the property are implemented through three Regional Directorates (World Heritage Committee, 2010; CONAP, 2006; UNESCO/IUCN, 2017). Most of the marine protected areas of the Gulf have developed and published Management Programs through participatory processes. While all component protected areas that are part of the property have well established management programmes and plans in place, no integrated management structure exists for the entire serial site, although coordination between different protected areas and management units appears to be well organized (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
Most of the individual component protected areas that constitute the World Heritage site are effectively managed (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017). However, illegal fishing activities, particular in the Upper Gulf of California, remain of concern and even unprecedented inter-agency efforts by CONANP, the Mexican Navy and PROFEPA have not succeeded so far in eliminating illegal fishing of totoaba (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
Boundaries
Mostly Effective
The site was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2005 and was subsequently extended in 2007 and 2011. Currently it comprises 12 components and extends over 688,588 ha. The serial approach is an adequate reflection of the biogeographic range and diversity of the Gulf of California and its islands (World Heritage Committee, 2013).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Highly Effective
The World Heritage site is well integrated in the national system of protected areas and through CONANP with regional and national planning systems (Bath and Putney, 2010).
Relationships with local people
Highly Effective
The National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP) works closely with local communities to develop livelihoods that are compatible with conservation. Years of working with the communities has led to generally good relations and a number of highly successful programmes have been developed, including monitoring programmes with participation of local communities (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017; State Party of Mexico, 2020).
Legal framework
Mostly Effective
The General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection (La Ley general del equilibrio ecológico y la protección al ambiente (LGEEPA)) provides the overarching legislative framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in Mexico. Most of the islands and all marine areas of this serial site are the property of the Federal Government (World Heritage Committee, 2010; UNESCO/IUCN, 2017). In addition to protected area laws, a number of legislative instruments provide a framework for protection of certain endangered species of flora and fauna. In order to address the threat to the vaquita from gillnet fishing in the Upper Gulf, a number of additional legal instruments have been introduced, including a ban on the use of gillnets in the North of the Gulf of California (State Party of Mexico, 2020).
Law enforcement
Serious Concern
Illegal fishing activities, particular illegal fishing of totoaba in the Upper Gulf of California, remain of concern and even unprecedented inter-agency efforts by CONANP, the Mexican Navy and PROFEPA have not succeeded so far in improving the situation (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017). While law enforcement activities continued being strengthened (UNESCO/IUCN), the situation has continued to be of high concern and has reportedly even further escalated more recently (UNESCO, 2019).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Serious Concern
A number of requests and recommendations have been expressed by the World Heritage Committee in several Decisions, mainly with regards to the situation with the critically endangered vaquita and illegal fishing of totoaba. These include requests to "ensure fully effective implementation and enforcement of the recently established permanent ban on gillnets use, sale, manufacture and possession at sea and on land within the Vaquita Refuge and the current gillnet and longline suspension zone and in the adjacent land areas" and to "fully implement the programme on development of alternative gear for legal fisheries which would not cause bycatch of vaquita and other marine mammal species, sharks and turtles" (World Heritage Committee, 2017). Despite the unprecedented interinstitutional efforts by the Mexican Government and its partners, the situation with illegal totoaba fishing in the Upper Gulf continues to remain of serious concern and the decline of the vaquita population has not been reversed yet (UNESCO, 2019), which has led to a Decision by the World Heritage Committee to inscribe this site on the List of World Heritage in Danger (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
Sustainable use
Serious Concern
CONANP works closely with local communities to assure that their use of natural resources is sustainable (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; Bath and Putney, 20010; CONANP, 2006). However, illegal and unsustainable fishing remain of high concern in many areas, despite the efforts to develop alternative "vaquita-safe" gear for the legal curvina and shrimp fisheries to allow local fishermen to continue their work (UNESCO, 2017; UNESCO/IUCN, 2018; UNESCO, 2019). Furthermore, it has been previously noted that transition to sustainable and regulated fishing practices will be required across the entire serial World Heritage site to ensure its conservation in the long term (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017; UNESCO/IUCN, 2018).
Sustainable finance
Serious Concern
The total annual operational budget (not including staff salaries) for the management of all component protected areas was 7,854,959 Mexican pesos in 2016. Most of the components experienced a reduction in budget in 2016 compared to 2015. In some components the reduction was quite significant, for example the budget for Archipiélago de San Lorenzo decreased from 200,000 pesos in 2015 to 85,000 pesos in 2016. However, many component protected areas can also count on external resources in addition to allocated budget (State Party of Mexico, 2016). The overall budget of CONANP has undergone further budget cuts in 2019, which is of concern.
Staff capacity, training, and development
Some Concern
Most of the component protected areas have a stable amount of technical staff, although in some areas the number of staff appears rather low compared to the size of the components. All component protected areas also have Advisory committees which support their management (State Party of Mexico, 2016).
Education and interpretation programs
Highly Effective
A number of excellent educational and community engagement programmes have been developed in many components of the World Heritage site and some of them can serve as best-practice examples worldwide (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017; State Party of Mexico, 2017, 2020).
Tourism and visitation management
Mostly Effective
Visitation has been increasing especially near the city of La Paz. Sport fishing
both by tourist service companies and independents is well established in the central and southern areas from La Paz and Loreto. Adventure and ecotourism groups come individually and in guided groups and cruises to watch whales and nesting birds, to skin-dive, kayak, sail, camp and trek. Guidelines for tourism and ecotourism, tourist information and permits are obtainable at the regional and local offices of CONANP. There is an Orientation Center at Bahía Kino opposite Tiburón (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). Some component protected areas (e.g. Bahía de Loreto, Cabo Pulmo, Islas Marietas) have a Programme of Public Use in place. In some components assessments of carrying capacity have been undertaken. Visitation levels vary quite significantly among the components with Balandra, Bahía de Loreto and Islands of the Gulf of California, B.C.S. receiving the highest numbers (State Party of Mexico, 2016).
Monitoring
Mostly Effective
A number of monitoring programmes exist in most components and these include monitoring of populations of sea birds, sea turtles, sea lions, bats, marine fishes and invertebrates. Most of these programmes are undertaken by CONANP in collaboration with research institutions and other partners (State Party of Mexico, 2016). A number of monitoring programmes involving members of local communities have also been developed and highly successful (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017; State Party of Mexico, 2016, 2020).
Research
Highly Effective
Almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the Gulf of California, which gives it extraordinary importance for the study of marine and coastal processes. The islands are seen as natural laboratories for the examining of speciation, colonization, interaction and adaptation among species; also for geological and evolutionary research. MacArthur and Wilson’s theory of island biogeography was tested there. The
National University of Mexico has monitored seabird populations on Isla Isabel since 1981; the Universities of Nayarit and Guadalajara also use the island’s excellent opportunities for research. Much remains unknown but numerous research projects are ongoing. Research is also supported by a number of NGOs working in the Gulf of California, mainly WWF, CI, TNC and PRONAT (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; CONANP, 2006).
The site has a sound management system, with highly dedicated CONANP staff responsible for the management of individual component protected areas which comprise this serial World Heritage site. While no integrated management structure of plan exists for the entire site, coordination between different protected areas and management units appears to be well organized in practice. Years of working with the communities has led to generally good relations and a number of highly successful programmes have been developed, including monitoring programmes with participation of local communities. Despite unprecedented efforts to strengthen law enforcement and surveillance activities, the situation with illegal fishing in the Upper Gulf remains of high concern. While concentrated in one area of this large serial site, it shows overall vulnerability of the system to illegal and unregulated fishing activities.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Serious Concern
The Management Program for the site takes notice of the impacts to the Gulf of California coast from “upstream” urban and industrial areas. Given the huge number and immensity of impacts, most attention is focused on wetlands since they are the breeding and nursery habitats of much of the Gulf’s fish. The resources available for this large task are extremely limited in comparison to the immensity of the problem (CONANP, 2006). Illegal fishing activities, particular illegal fishing of totoaba in the Upper Gulf of California, both within and outside the component protected areas of the site, remain of concern and even unprecedented inter-agency efforts by CONANP, the Mexican Navy and PROFEPA have not succeeded so far in improving the situation (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
Best practice examples
1. A number of highly successful community engagement programmes have been developed in some components and can serve as best-practice examples. These are multi-sectorial projects involving different levels of governance, NGO’s, academies and community to develop capacities to coordinate actions that benefit the people and the ecosystems. An example of this is the active involvement of the Comca’ac’s people in conservation and research efforts. 2. Successful eradication of introduced species, such as rats, on several islands (i.e. Farallón de San Ignacio and San Pedro Mártir islands) can also serve as a best-practice example.
World Heritage values

Striking natural beauty

Good
Trend
Stable
The aesthetic values of the site have been well preserved. Many of the islands remain in pristine conditions and are not affected by any development (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).

A natural laboratory for the study of speciation and oceanographic processes

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While many of ecological and oceanographic processes continue unimpaired, high concerns remain regarding the future of some key species, particularly the critically endangered vaquita (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017). Furthermore, concerns remain with regards to overfishing. All this may trigger further changes in the entire ecosystem.

Diversity of terrestrial and marine life

Critical
Trend
Deteriorating
The World Heritage site remains in an overall good state of conservation. However, the situation varies across this large serial site. A recent ecological assessment of all marine protected areas (MPAs) in Northeast Mexico has been undertaken by CONANP (2016) through ecological scorecards compiled for individual protected areas based on a number of indicators. The results show that marine areas are in good condition in parts of the site (Cabo Pulmo, San Lorenzo), but are in poor condition and showing decline in other parts, particularly in south-eastern parts along the coast of Nayarit state (Isla Isabel and Islas Marietas) (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
The critically endangered vaquita, endemic to the Gulf of California, is at risk of imminent extinction. Its numbers declined from approximately 300 at the time of the inscription of the property to 59 in 2015, and further to an estimation of 30 individuals in 2016 (UNESCO, 2017). As of summer 2018, it was estimated that fewer than 19 individuals have remained. Despite all the measures implemented to combat illegal fishing, between Match 2016 and March 2019, a total of 10 vaquitas killed in gillnets were found (Jaramillo-Legoretta et al., 2019).
The situation with illegal fishing and the continued decline of the vaquita population has led to the inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Critical
Trend
Deteriorating
Large parts of this serial World Heritage site and many key species and habitats remain relatively well preserved. However, despite unprecedented efforts to strengthen law enforcement and surveillance activities, illegal, unregulated and unsustainable fisheries remain a concern for the protection of the World Heritage values. The lack of decisive progress in stopping the illegal gillnet fishery in the Upper Gulf of California has led to the near-extinction of the vaquita, an endemic porpoise only found in the Gulf of California. Results of a recent ecological assessment of all marine protected areas in Northeast Mexico also show that while marine areas in parts of the World Heritage site remain in good condition, in other components they are in poor condition and showing decline, particularly in south-eastern parts along the coast of Nayarit state.

Additional information

Importance for research,
Contribution to education
Almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the Gulf of California, which gives it extraordinary importance for the study of marine and coastal processes. The islands are seen as natural laboratories for the examining of speciation, colonization, interaction and adaptation among species; also for geological and evolutionary research (UNEP-WCMC, 2011).
Outdoor recreation and tourism
The economic benefits derived from the site include major commercial, artisanal, and recreational fishing, and tourism.
Fishing areas and conservation of fish stocks
The World Heritage site is extremely important for supporting major fisheries in the Gulf of California. However, high concerns remain with regards to both illegal fishing and unsustainable levels of legal fisheries (UNESCO/IUCN, 2017).
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Overexploitation
Impact level - Very High
Trend - Increasing
The Gulf of California has an extraordinary importance for the study of marine and coastal processes. The islands are seen as natural laboratories for the examining of speciation, colonization, interaction and adaptation among species; also for geological and evolutionary research. The economic benefits derived from the site include major commercial, artisanal, and recreational fishing, and tourism.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 Fundación Mexicana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza Funding of projects by government agencies and NGOs to improve the conservation and management of the property, and support local communities to develop sustainable livelihoods.
www.fmcn.org
2 David and Lucile Packard Foundation Funding implementation of the Integrated Program for Marine Protected Areas of the Gulf of California.
www.packard.org
3 WWF Mexico Gulf of California Program WWF works to ensure that the Gulf remains a healthy and productive marine area that can support local communities as well as the abundant wildlife within and near its waters. We have helped create several protected areas within the Gulf, and have worked to protect areas such as Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park from any future coastal development.
http://worldwildlife.org/places/gulf-of-california
4 Conservación del Territorio Insular Mexicano, A.C. (ISLA) Assessment of the sea cucumber in the marine protected areas in the Bahía de los Angeles area. Working the sport fishing assessment with special attention to totoaba. Assessing local eco-tourism companies to obtain a certification under the NMX-AA-133-SCFI-1996. Eco-tourism Sustainability Norm.
www.isla.org.mx
5 The Slim Foundation (Fundación Slim) The Slim Foundation is working together with NGOs and government agencies on projects regarding sustainable fishing in the upper Gulf of California. They are also involved in the integral restoration of islands in the Gulf of California and Baja California Peninsula region as well as environmental education.
http://fundacioncarlosslim.org/
6 Leonardo DiCaprio foundation Cooperation with Mexican government, Slim Foundation and others in vaquita conservation.
https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/leonardo-dicaprio-continues-efforts-to-protect-endangered-vaquita/
7 Grupo Tortuguero of the Californias Conservation of marine turtles in the Gulf of California.
http://www.grupotortuguero.org/

References

References
1
Arreguin-Sanchez, F, Arreguín-Sánchez, F, del Monte-Luna, P, Zetina-Rejón, MJ, Albáñez-Lucero, MO. 2017. The Gulf of California Large Marine Ecosystem: Fisheries and other natural resources. Environmental development 22: 71-77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envdev.2017.03.002
2
Barraza-Guardado, RH, Arreola-Lizárraga, JA, López-Torres, MA, et al., “Effluents of Shrimp Farms and Its Influence on the Coastal Ecosystems of Bahía de Kino, Mexico,” The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2013, Article ID 306370, 8 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/306370
3
Brusca, RC, Findley LT, Hastings PA, Hendrickx ME, Torre-Cosio J, van der Heiden AM. 2005. Macrofaunal biodiversity in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). Biodiversity, ecosystems, and conservation in northern Mexico. ( Cartron JE, Ceballos G, Felger R, Eds.).:179-202., New York: Oxford University Press
4
CONANP, 2006. Golfo de California, Estrategia del Subprograma,2006–2011
5
CONANP, 2009. Monitoreo Biológico. http://islag.conanp.gob.mx/islas/
6
Cavazos, Tereza and Sarahí Arriaga-Ramírez, 2008. Regional Climate Change Scenarios for Baja California .Departamento de Oceanografía Física. CICESEhttp://weather.unl.edu/RCM/IDB_Mexico/participant/baja_cali…
7
Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, 2016. Fichas de evaluación ecológica de áreas naturales protegidas del noroeste de México. 240 pp.
8
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