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Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

Mexico
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Other Threats:

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

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Illegal activities (illegal fishing)
  • Serious concerns about the imminent extinction of an endemic porpoise species (vaquita) and conservation status of a marine fish (totoaba)
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Imminent extinction of an endemic porpoise species (vaquita) and conservation status of a marine fish (totoaba)
  • Insufficient capacity to control illegal fishing and trafficking activities
  • Presence of unsustainable fishing practices that endanger non-target marine species
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Not yet drafted

Corrective Measures for the property

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

April 2017: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; February 2018: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 27 January 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1182/documents, reporting the following:

  • The State Party re-affirms its commitment to using the tool of the List of World Heritage in Danger to strengthen international cooperation and is seeking cooperation with other States Parties to fight illegal international trafficking of totoaba products, which continues to be the main threat to the survival of the vaquita. Consultations are ongoing with the State Party of China regarding an adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding that would improve cooperation in this field, and the possibility of convening a meeting of States Parties that are transit and destination countries for the illegal totoaba products is being considered in line with a decision adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES);
  • It is confirmed that alternative fishing gear solutions already exist, including for shrimp, curvina and sierra fisheries. For the 2019-2020 shrimp fishing season, a total of 544 permits for 588 speedboats were issued, all authorizing only the allowed fishing gear;
  • Surveillance and enforcement activities have continued, coordinated by the Inter-institutional Operation Committee (COI), including air, sea and land law enforcement activities, supported by the Mexican Navy, Federal Police, Environmental Gendarmerie and other agencies. 42 totoaba swim bladders were detected by the Mexican Army on a single day in 2019 thanks to ongoing control of vehicles at military checkpoints; 271 swim bladders were seized at Mexico International Airport in 2019;
  • Cooperation with civil society has also been strengthened through signing collaboration agreements with the Whale and Marine Sciences Museum for the installation of buoys to mark the Vaquita Refuge Area and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for continuing the ghost nets retrieval programme, particularly in the “zero tolerance zone” corresponding to the area with the highest possible concentration of the remaining vaquitas.
  • Other conservation and monitoring activities across the components of the property are reported.

In 2020, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN held several virtual meetings with the State Party regarding the development of the corrective measures and a proposal for a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). A proposal for corrective measures was submitted by the State Party on 15 July 2020. On 20 August, the State Party further communicated that a technical working group has been established to develop the DSOCR. Further discussions were held through online meetings in 2021, and the World Heritage Centre and IUCN provided further written advice to the State Party on the developed proposals for corrective measures and the DSOCR.

In April 2021, the World Heritage Centre provided funding through the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) for the resumption of net retrieval operations in the vaquita sanctuary. Net retrieval operation had been suspended in December last following an incident between the NGO operated net retrieving vessels and illegal fishermen.

On 4 May 2021, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party regarding third-party information raising concerns that the new fishing regulations developed for the areas within the property, while including a number of important elements, do not fully address previously raised concerns. No response has been received at the time of writing of this report. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The ongoing inter-institutional efforts aimed at fighting illegal fishing activities in the Upper Gulf of California and illegal trafficking of totoaba products should be welcomed. While the figures reported by the State Party in terms of the seizure of illegal products show that the measures put in place for the detection of illegal trafficking activities are working, they also show that the volume of illegally extracted totoaba swim bladders remains alarmingly high, indicating that illegal fishing activities continue in spite of the important efforts to stop them. The third-party information received also confirms that illegal activities remain widespread in the vaquita sanctuary. It is therefore recommended that the State Party further strengthens these efforts based on a critical assessment of the efficiency of the current efforts on how to improve them.

It is expected that the State Party provide further information on the new fisheries regulations which have been approved in September 2020. Third party sources note that the new regulations, if enforced, have the potential to reduce totoaba poaching and vaquita bycatch but raise concerns that the State Party has not fully implemented the regulations and has failed to enforce them.

The efforts by the State Party to continue a dialogue with the States Parties that are transit and destination countries for illegal totoaba products, including within the framework of CITES, should also be welcomed and strongly encouraged to continue.

Regarding legal fishing and the development of alternative vaquita-safe fishing gear, the confirmation provided by the State Party that a number of alternative solutions is available and has been provided to the interested fishers, including for the 2018-2019 shrimp fishing season, is positive and welcomed. However, the level of uptake of the alternative fishing gear across the fishing communities in the Upper Gulf is unclear based on the information provided. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue these efforts and to provide further information on the scale of deployment of alternative fishing gear.

Ongoing ‘ghost net’ retrieval efforts, including through collaboration with civil society organizations, now formalized through a collaboration agreement, are also welcomed. However, the figures provided by the State Party again indicate that the situation remains of concern, since a large number of ghost nets continues to be found. It is also noted that the ghost nets retrieval activities have been concentrated in the so called “zero tolerance zone”, however, no further information has been provided on how effective the zone has been. The recent suspension of net retrieval operations following the December last incident is of outmost concern, especially that the totoaba illegal fishing season is now well underway.

Finally, in light of significant concerns regarding the drastic decline of the vaquita in recent years, it is noted that while important information has been provided by the State Party regarding the ongoing surveillance and law enforcement activities, no recent update on the status of the vaquita population  has been provided, which makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of the measures. The report also provides no information if further cases of dead vaquita were reported.

The efforts by the State Party to develop a set of corrective measures and a DSOCR in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are welcomed. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to speed up this process and to submit the final revised version with its next report on the state of conservation of the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN express their availability to provide further advice to the process, if necessary, through available means, including a technical workshop with participation of the World Heritage Centre, IUCN, including its Species Survival Commission, and the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA). 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7A.56
Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Mexico) (N 1182ter)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.26, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Reiterates its utmost concern about the critical status of the vaquita population, specifically recognized as part of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and endemic to the Gulf of California, and that illegal fishing of totoaba has continued in the Upper Gulf of California resulting in a threat of imminent extinction of the vaquita population;
  4. Notes that no updated information has been provided regarding the remaining vaquita population and therefore requests the State Party to cooperate with the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) to update the current estimate and transmit this information to the World Heritage Centre;
  5. Welcomes the efforts by the State Party to use the mechanism of the List of World Heritage in Danger to strengthen international cooperation to fight illegal international trafficking of totoaba products and to continue a dialogue with the States Parties that are transit and destination countries for illegal totoaba products, including within the framework of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES);
  6. Also welcomes the ongoing inter-institutional efforts aimed at fighting illegal fishing activities in the Upper Gulf of California and illegal trafficking of totoaba products, but notes with concern that the volume of illegally extracted totoaba products remains high, and also requests the State Party to further strengthen these efforts based on a critical assessment of the efficiency of the current efforts on how to improve them;
  7. Also notes the reported information on new fisheries regulations that have been approved in September 2020, which, if enforced, could have the potential to reduce totoaba poaching and vaquita bycatch, as well as the concerns that the State Party has not fully implemented the regulations and has failed to enforce them; and further requests the State Party to provide further information in this regard;
  8. Further welcomes that ongoing ‘ghost net’ retrieval efforts, including through collaboration with civil society organizations, have been formalized, but expresses concern that a large number of ghost nets continues to be found, that the ghost nets retrieval activities have been concentrated in the so called “zero tolerance zone”, but that no further information has been provided on how effective the zone has been and that net retrieval operations remain suspended since December 2020, while the totoaba illegal fishing season is underway;
  9. Taking note of the confirmation provided by the State Party that alternative vaquita-safe fishing gear is already available for a number of fisheries and has been provided to interested fishers, requests furthermore the State Party to continue these efforts and to confirm the scale of deployment of alternative fishing gear across the fishing communities of the Upper Gulf of California;
  10. Notes with satisfaction the dialogue between the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN regarding the development of a set of corrective measures and requests moreover the State Party to submit the final proposal with its next report on the state of conservation of the property, taking into account the comments provided by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  11. Welcomes furthermore the establishment of a technical working group for the development of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and urges the State Party to expedite the process, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, including by organising a technical workshop with participation of the World Heritage Centre, IUCN, including its Species Survival Commission, and CIRVA;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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 45th session;
  13. Decides to retain Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Mexico) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
44 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (Retained Properties)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/21/44.COM/7A, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 44 COM 7A.28)
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 44 COM 7A.29)
  • Austria, Historic Centre of Vienna (Decision 44 COM 7A.32)
  • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosí (Decision 44 COM 7A.35)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.39)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.40)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.41)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.42)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.43)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.45)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 44 COM 7A.5)
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.55)
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 44 COM 7A.52)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 44 COM 7A.6)
  • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 44 COM 7A.7)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 44 COM 7A.8)
  • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 44 COM 7A.10)
  • Kenya, Lake Turkana National Parks (Decision 44 COM 7A.47)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Decision 44 COM 7A.11)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Decision 44 COM 7A.12)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Decision 44 COM 7A.13)
  • Libya, Old Town of Ghadamès (Decision 44 COM 7A.14)
  • Libya, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Decision 44 COM 7A.15)
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 44 COM 7A.48)
  • Mali, Old Towns of Djenné (Decision 44 COM 7A.1)
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 44 COM 7A.2)
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 44 COM 7A.3)
  • Mexico, Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Decision 44 COM 7B.56)
  • Micronesia (Federated States of), Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Decision 44 COM 7A.30)
  • Niger, Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 44 COM 7A.49)
  • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 44 COM 7A.17)
  • Palestine, Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Decision 44 COM 7A.16)
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 44 COM 7A.36)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 44 COM 7A.37)
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.50)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 44 COM 7A.33)
  • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 44 COM 7A.53)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 44 COM 7A.18)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 44 COM 7A.19)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 44 COM 7A.20)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 44 COM 7A.21)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 44 COM 7A.22)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 44 COM 7A.23)
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 44 COM 7A.4)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.51)
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.54)
  • Uzbekistan, Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Decision 44 COM 7A.31)
  • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Coro and its Port (Decision 44 COM 7A.38)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 44 COM 7A.25)
  • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 44 COM 7A.26)
  • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 44 COM 7A.27).
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7A.56

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.26, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Reiterates its utmost concern about the critical status of the vaquita population, specifically recognized as part of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and endemic to the Gulf of California, and that illegal fishing of totoaba has continued in the Upper Gulf of California resulting in a threat of imminent extinction of the vaquita population;
  4. Notes that no updated information has been provided regarding the remaining vaquita population and therefore requests the State Party to cooperate with the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) to update the current estimate and transmit this information to the World Heritage Centre;
  5. Welcomes the efforts by the State Party to use the mechanism of the List of World Heritage in Danger to strengthen international cooperation to fight illegal international trafficking of totoaba products and to continue a dialogue with the States Parties that are transit and destination countries for illegal totoaba products, including within the framework of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES);
  6. Also welcomes the ongoing inter-institutional efforts aimed at fighting illegal fishing activities in the Upper Gulf of California and illegal trafficking of totoaba products, but notes with concern that the volume of illegally extracted totoaba products remains high, and also requests the State Party to further strengthen these efforts based on a critical assessment of the efficiency of the current efforts on how to improve them;
  7. Also notes the reported information on new fisheries regulations that have been approved in September 2020, which, if enforced, could have the potential to reduce totoaba poaching and vaquita bycatch, as well as the concerns that the State Party has not fully implemented the regulations and has failed to enforce them; and further requests the State Party to provide further information in this regard;
  8. Further welcomes that ongoing ‘ghost net’ retrieval efforts, including through collaboration with civil society organizations, have been formalized, but expresses concern that a large number of ghost nets continues to be found, that the ghost nets retrieval activities have been concentrated in the so called “zero tolerance zone”, but that no further information has been provided on how effective the zone has been and that net retrieval operations remain suspended since December 2020, while the totoaba illegal fishing season is underway;
  9. Taking note of the confirmation provided by the State Party that alternative vaquita-safe fishing gear is already available for a number of fisheries and has been provided to interested fishers, requests furthermore the State Party to continue these efforts and to confirm the scale of deployment of alternative fishing gear across the fishing communities of the Upper Gulf of California;
  10. Notes with satisfaction the dialogue between the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN regarding the development of a set of corrective measures and requests moreover the State Party to submit the final proposal with its next report on the state of conservation of the property, taking into account the comments provided by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  11. Welcomes furthermore the establishment of a technical working group for the development of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and urges the State Party to expedite the process, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, including by organising a technical workshop with participation of the World Heritage Centre, IUCN, including its Species Survival Commission, and CIRVA;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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 45th session in 2022;
  13. Decides to retain Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Mexico) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2021
Mexico
Date of Inscription: 2005
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Danger List (dates): 2019-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2020
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
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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