Tour operators and liveaboards are out of a job at midnight on January 10 since “all tourist operations, including film and TV projects at Isla Guadalupe,” have been forbidden.
According to a statement released by the Mexican government, cage diving and sport fishing had already been banned between May and December 2022. This closure was put in place to “make it possible to gather the information that will guide activities and the adoption of the best sustainability practices that guarantee the conservation of the aforementioned populations.”
The new Guadalupe Management Plan, which was released on January 9 as a result of the information gathering, states that “White shark observation may not be carried out in the Reserve for tourist purposes, to avoid altering their habitat, behavior, and feeding sites, and thereby preserve and conserve the species.”
The Mexican state of Baja California’s economy has significantly benefited from shark tourism, with various small companies capitalizing on its appeal.
Due to their constant presence during the six months that the great white sharks spend on Isla Guadalupe each year, the liveaboards that frequent the area have also served as an effective deterrent to poaching and illicit fishing.
Although the closure may have had good intentions, local tour operators are concerned that the new management plan makes no provisions for stopping illicit fishing or protecting sharks.
One of the pioneers of the local great white cage diving liveaboard industry, Horizon Charters, posted the following remark on its Facebook page:
“Mexico has adopted the new management plan for Guadalupe Island, it is now law, and it prohibits all tourism activities and film and TV at the island. To change this status, a new management plan must be written and approved, and that will take years – if Mexico has any desire to reverse this decision.
As with Cedros Island, which closed over 25 years ago, Mexico has not seen the need to reopen it. No mechanism will magically reopen Guadalupe, no legal challenge, no petition, or pressure campaign. It is closed.”
The 400+ great white sharks we have grown to know and love in this area are not protected by any provisions in the current management plan. As you know, they gather in large numbers at Guadalupe for six months out of the year. From Hawaii to Washington State, the whole Californian coast, Baja, and the Sea of Cortez, these creatures serve as the primary breeding species for the majority of the Eastern Pacific.
The Eastern Pacific’s white shark population may be wiped out if these creatures were lost to illegal fishing. As a result, Mexico must immediately set aside the personnel and resources required to safeguard these creatures during every season going ahead.
Since it is unknown when, if ever, Guadalupe will reopen, Horizon Charters has announced that it would cancel any reservations made for the next season.
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