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July 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 27, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Environmental News about Baja California, Australia and DEMA

from the July, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Kudos to Mexico's outgoing president Felipe Calderon. Last month, he cancelled permits for an enormous, Cancun-sized resort planned for the Baja California shoreline near the Cabo Pulmo preserve. Marine life has exploded there, following a decision two decades ago by residents to stop commercial fishing and develop ecotourism activities instead. But in 2008, federal authorities granted permits for a Spanish developer to build about 30,000 hotel rooms, golf courses and a marina on a strip of seaside desert about 90 minutes northeast of the Los Cabos resorts. Calderon said the permits were being withdrawn because the developer hadn't proved the 9,400-acre resort wouldn't harm the environment. "Because of its size, we have to be absolutely certain that it wouldn't cause irreversible damage, and that absolute certainty simply hasn't been proved." But the fight isn't over. The developers said that they would rethink the project and re-submit another proposal.

Subscriber Don Wilson (Trenton, NJ) wrote us that after reading our March 2008 story about Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort, he went diving there, and says it's superb. "The marine sanctuary is evidently well controlled. When have you seen a school of a couple hundred puffers? And huge schools of jacks, and on and on. I have seldom seen such high populations of fish and diversity of species. I had been disturbed by the signs everywhere along the way up from Cabo San Lucas, indicating future development, luxury resort, private property, keep out. I wanted to write now to express my happiness that the Mexican government has resisted the developers. Still, the Cabo Pulmo sanctuary is only a couple of miles along the shore. There are still around 60 miles back down to Cabo San Lucas, and I am sure developers will rape that whole area."

Across the Pacific, Australia has created the world's largest network of marine reserves, and will restrict fishing and oil and gas exploration in a major step to safeguard the environment. Australia will now go from protecting 310,000 square miles of ocean to 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including the Coral Sea off Australia's northeastern coast and the adjoining Great Barrier Reef. The number of marine reserves will rise from 27 to 60, and encompass a third of Australia's territorial waters, which sustain more than 4,000 species of fish. The current government expects to pay US$100 million to compensate the fishing industry for the new restrictions taking effect later this years, but the conservative opposition has vowed to review the boundaries if it wins elections next year, an outcome that opinion polls agree is likely.

On the flip side, the Australian government has just approved a Dutch trawler's permit to extract 34 million pounds of baitfish off southeastern Australia by casting immense nets over baitballs. Of course, tuna, turtles, albatross, seals, dolphins -- anything trapped in the nets -- become by-catch.

It's a tougher road to ocean conservation in the U.S., as we reported last month about the opposition of DEMA (the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association) to the effort of the Obama administration to protect our oceans with the National Ocean Policy (NOP). DEMA executive director Tom Ingram took issue with our article, saying we had misrepresented DEMA's position. We had e-mailed him questions, then both interpreted and quoted his responses in our article, but Ingram wrote: "I am forced to publish your questions and our responses for our members to review, so that it is possible for them to understand your publication better."

However, the only error he pointed out was that we said DEMA was a member of the National Ocean Policy Coalition, which also opposes Obama's policy. Ingram says that DEMA has only partnered with the Coalition in support of the letter written by Congressman Doc Hastings, who chairs the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, to the House Appropriations Committee about why he too opposes the National Ocean Policy.

Ingram didn't specifically rebut anything else we wrote about DEMA's stance toward the National Ocean Policy, nor did he offer any additional information about DEMA's position. So regardless of his criticism of Undercurrent, DEMA still seems to be aligned fully with gas and oil companies, factory fishing businesses and everyone else opposed to the National Ocean Policy, in opposition to the many environmental and scientific groups that support it.

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