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Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

Mexico
Factors affecting the property in 2016*
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Other Threats:

    Serious concerns over the conservation status of two species, vaquita (porpoise species) and totoaba (marine fish)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2016
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2016**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 18 January 2016, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party regarding serious concerns over the conservation status of two species, vaquita (porpoise species) and totoaba (marine fish), both endemic to the Gulf of California and recognized as attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). The letter noted that according to the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), the vaquita was “in imminent danger of extinction”.

On 28 February and 11 April 2016, the State Party responded providing the following information:

Both species are threatened by gillnet fishing. Totoaba is a marine fish targeted by illegal gillnet fishing for its swim bladder which is in high demand in China. Vaquita is a porpoise species affected as bycatch, through entanglement in gillnets used for shrimp fishing and illegal fishing of totoaba. Over a number of years the State Party has undertaken the following measures aimed at conservation of these species:

  • In 1997, the Government of Mexico established the International Committee for the Recovery of Vaquita (CIRVA);
  • In 2005, the Refuge Area for the Protection of Vaquita was established;
  • In 2007, the “Conservation Action Plan for Vaquita: Integrated Strategy for Sustainable Use of Marine and Coastal Resources in the Upper Gulf of California (PACE: Vaquita)” was initiated to enable buy-out of fishing vessels and permits and to promote a technological switch to alternative fishing gear which is not harmful to vaquita;
  • In July 2014, CIRVA recommended a ban on gillnets in the entire vaquita range including outside the Refuge Area and in April 2015, a two-year suspension (with a possibility of extension) of commercial longline and gillnet-based fishing activities operated by minor vessels in the Northern Gulf of California was introduced;
  • In 2015, the State Party adopted the Integrated Strategy for the Recovery of Vaquita which foresees a number of compensation, inspection and enforcement measures, including:
    • a monetary compensation programme for fishermen who incurred losses due to the introduction of the Temporary Fishing Ban in support of the conservation of vaquita;
    • inspection and enforcement activities carried jointly by a number of state agencies;
  • The State Party established communication with the Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), requesting a notification to the countries regarding issues surrounding totoaba and requesting their collaboration to discourage its illegal international trade.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2016

The extensive measures undertaken by the State Party and its commitment to the conservation of the critically endangered vaquita and totoaba should be highly commended. Nonetheless, the status of the vaquita population remains critical. Although the State Party notes that the final results of the recent scientific expedition aimed at estimating the number of remaining vaquita individuals are expected in May and therefore no definitive results are available yet, a number of reports, including the reports by CIRVA referred to above, conclude that the species is threatened with imminent extinction, noting that if the bycatch of vaquita is not eliminated as a matter of urgency, it could possibly be extinct as soon as 2018. It is therefore recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to continue its ongoing efforts and take urgent additional measures aimed at the preservation of vaquita, including further promotion of a switch to alternative fishing gear for shrimp fishing, and to introduce an extension of the suspension of gillnet-based fishing activities in the Northern gulf of California beyond two years and an eventual introduction of a permanent ban on gillnet fishing in the entire range of vaquita.

It is noted that the State Party considers that the key threat to both totoaba, as the target, and vaquita, as bycatch, is posed by illegal fishing of totoaba, including by criminal organizations involved in illegal international trafficking of totoaba swim bladders. In this regard the dialogue established by the State Party with the Secretariat of CITES is highly welcomed. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to pursue this dialogue and request it to continue to take actions at national level against criminal networks involved in illegal trafficking of totoaba. It is further recommended that the Committee call upon the States Parties which are transit and destination countries for totoaba swim bladder to support the State Party of Mexico to halt the illegal trade in totoaba swim bladder and other illegal wildlife products, in particular through the implementation of the CITES Convention.

Finally, it should be noted that a serious decline in the population of endangered species or other species contributing to the OUV represents an ascertained danger and a condition for inscription of a property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines.  Given the critical condition of the vaquita population, which is recognized as an attribute of the property’s OUV, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to invite, as a matter of urgency, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its current state of conservation and to evaluate whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2016
40 COM 7B.75
Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Mexico) (N 1182ter)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Highly commends the State Party for its efforts aimed at the preservation of the critically endangered vaquita and totoaba, but notes with utmost concern that the status of the vaquita population has become extremely critical and that the species is threatened with extinction, possibly as early as 2018;
  3. Considers that the critical status of the vaquita population represents an ascertained danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  4. Requests the State Party to continue its efforts and take urgent additional measures to address the threats to vaquita and totoaba, including further promotion of a switch to alternative fishing gear for shrimp fishing, and the introduction of an extension of the suspension of gillnet-based fishing activities in the Northern Gulf of California beyond two years and an eventual introduction of a permanent ban on gillnet fishing in the entire range of vaquita;
  5. Notes the conclusion of the State Party that the key threat to both totoaba, as the target, and vaquita, as bycatch, is posed by illegal fishing of totoaba, including by criminal organizations involved in illegal international trafficking of totoaba swim bladders, and welcomes the dialogue established by the State Party with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and urges the State Party to pursue this dialogue and to continue to take actions at national level against criminal networks involved in totoaba trafficking;
  6. Calls upon the States Parties, which are transit and destination countries for totoaba swim bladder, to support the State Party to halt the illegal trade in totoaba swim bladder and other illegal wildlife products, in particular through the implementation of the CITES Convention;
  7. Also requests the State Party to invite, as a matter of urgency, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its current state of conservation and to evaluate whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017, with a view to considering, in the case of confirmation of the ascertained or potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Draft Decision: 40 COM 7B.75

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Highly commends the State Party for its efforts aimed at the preservation of the critically endangered vaquita and totoaba, but notes with utmost concern that the status of the vaquita population has become extremely critical and the species is threatened with extinction, possibly as early as 2018;
  3. Considers that the critical status of the vaquita population represents an ascertained danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in accordance with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  4. Requests the State Party to continue its efforts and take urgent additional measures to address the threats to vaquita and totoaba, including further promotion of a switch to alternative fishing gear for shrimp fishing, and the introduction of an extension of the suspension of gillnet-based fishing activities in the Northern Gulf of California beyond two years and an eventual introduction of a permanent ban on gillnet fishing in the entire range of vaquita;
  5. Notes the conclusion of the State Party that the key threat to both totoaba, as the target, and vaquita, as bycatch, is posed by illegal fishing of totoaba, including by criminal organizations involved in illegal international trafficking of totoaba swim bladders, and welcomes the dialogue established by the State Party with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and urges the State Party to pursue this dialogue and to continue to take actions at national level against criminal networks involved in totoaba trafficking,
  6. Calls upon the States Parties, which are transit and destination countries for totoaba swim bladder, to support the State Party to halt the illegal trade in totoaba swim bladder and other illegal wildlife products, in particular through the implementation of the CITES Convention;
  7. Also requests the State Party to invite, as a matter of urgency, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its current state of conservation and to evaluate whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017, with a view to considering, in the case of confirmation of the ascertained or potential danger to Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2016
Mexico
Date of Inscription: 2005
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Danger List (dates): 2019-present
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 40COM (2016)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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