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History of Cabo Pulmo

Cabo Pulmo is located on the lower southeast portion of the peninsula of Baja California Sur, Mexico. The town originated in the eighteenth century when the first settlers were engaged in the extraction of mother of pearl. 

As that market became overexploited, people began commercial fishing, an occupation that supported my family and others for over 100 years and 4 generations.  Back then Cabo Pulmo was a fishing camp with houses made of wood from ships that had been driven onto the rocks by storms. There was great poverty because the fish harvests that had once been so plentiful began to decline.  The waters had been overfished and it was necessary to go farther away from home to get harvests that were smaller or nonexistent.

Judith Castro Lucero

In the early 1980s students and professors from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur began to visit the community and explain to the fishing families the importance of the coral reef that existed just offshore from our houses.  We had always thought of the reef as our garden where we could harvest food. They began to explain to us the importance of the reef in terms of environmental services for all sea life in that region. They pointed out the damage done to the reef by anchors and heavy fishing around them. Over 10 years of working together with the college, we became slowly convinced that it was necessary and urgent to start protecting this important ecosystem. 

My family together with others and with the University decided to ask the Mexican government to decree Cabo Pulmo as a protected area. On June 6, 1995 the President of Mexico, Mr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León  declared the waters of Cabo Pulmo as a National Marine Park.

Judith Castro Lucero

Although we wanted the reef protected it meant that we could no longer fish in the 7,111 acres of the Park, which included all of the water bordering our town. Things were very difficult for our families during the first four years because we had no alternative way to make a living. 

We began to look towards tourism to develop businesses that would not damage the reef. Some of us who had been fisherman began to train as Dive Masters, others opened restaurants, while others began to offer tours for snorkeling or sport fishing outside the park. We changed from being a fishing community to becoming a resort community and we continue today to expand and improve the quality of the services we offer. 

Judith Castro Lucero

While this is a great achievement for our town, the most important accomplishment is what has occurred on the reef after 19 years of no extraction. In a study by Octavio Aburto, a scientist at the Scripps Institute in San Diego, the biomass of sea life has increased over 460%, making the Cabo Pulmo National Park the most recovered marine reserve in the world.

The success of the marine park is the result of our commitment to make the Marine Park protect the reef and recover fish populations. Former fishermen understood very well the need to protect the reef and, because of that, we are very zealous guardians. Everyday we strive to be sure that rules are followed and that there is no poaching in the park.  It is this commitment of our village that has led to this important conservation success.  

We are very proud of this great achievement and every day we strive to continue conserving more Cabo Pulmo reef and the quality of life of people because we firmly believe that you can live with natural resources without damaging them.