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November 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Sea of Cortez, Revisited

from the November, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dear Ben,

I just returned from a far-north to far-south Sea of Cortez trip on the Rocio del Mar, which you covered in your October issue. My impression of the Rocio del Mar's crew is similar to your author's positive experiences. However, my experience with the two dive guides was less impressive: mostly babysitting, with very few critter finds. The Rocio del Mar is a very slow boat, reportedly with a top speed of eight knots! The biggest difference between your article and my experience was in the diving. It has been estimated that 95 percent of original fish stocks are gone from the Sea of Cortez. I was the only person who captured even one picture of a hammerhead, something this area used to be famous for. No mantas, no dolphins underwater (very few above), no whales. The few whale sharks we saw were small (only up to 20 feet), and the water in this protected park was so green that most gave up on photography. Yes, we saw an occasional shark as well as a large school of big-eye jacks. Multiple sea lion encounters seemed to "save" the trip for most. Several divers on the trip, as well as the dive guides, commented that there has been a steady degradation in the quality of diving over the years in the entire Sea of Cortez. Several divers, after visiting often for the past 20 years and experiencing this decline, did not plan to return.

- - Randy Preissig, San Antonio, TX

Our Rocio del Mar writer responds:

Randy is certainly correct about the loss of marine life, not only in the Sea of Cortez, but around the world. However, I paid attention to what was there, not what was missing -- partly because I had not been there before, and partly because philosophically, I think each dive area must be appreciated on its own terms. Also, might not the writer's photographic bent lean him toward looking for dramatic big animals? Heaven knows there were amazing creatures (particularly invertebrates) for those willing to look. But his basic point of the Sea of Cortez not being what it used to be is true worldwide. Thank you to those who seek the prestige of shark fin soup. Perhaps my ignorance of the Sea of Cortesz and delight in what I saw made me appreciate its delights more than the jaded diver looking only for the big stuff.

--J.D.

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