The World Heritage Centre received a letter today from the Government of Mexico’s National Commission for Natural Protected Areas formally advising it that the government had withdrawn all approvals for the development of a very large tourism development application located near Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park (CPNP). CPNP is a component of the large Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California World Heritage site, inscribed in 2005.
The proposal called for over 30,000 hotel rooms, 2 golf courses, and marina, to be developed over a 40-year period and located immediately next to the national park. Concerns were expressed over the development’s impacts on CPNP – one of the rare success stories in marine conservation. Created in 1995, the area contains the only coral communities of the Gulf of California. Local communities played a key role in the conservation of the area, as they adapted their activities from fishing to tourism. This change led to the restoration of vast schools of fish in areas where they had completely disappeared. Small-scale tourism now provides for sustainable livelihoods for many former fishing families, with scuba diving being the main attraction.
The Government of Mexico had invited the World Heritage Centre, along with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Secretariat, and IUCN on a technical advisory mission to the site last November. The mission met with a large variety of stakeholders, including the project proponents, local government, community members and more and provided their feedback to governmental authorities.
The World Heritage Centre is pleased at this news. It understands that balancing development and conservation is not an easy task and that it sometimes calls for difficult decisions. In this case, the World Heritage Centre is confident that the decision will help guarantee the long-term conservation of one of the world’s most outstanding marine areas.