Plano Texas based Bisbee Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico (DUMAC) are embarking on a long term partnership to sustain and restore Mexico’s North Pacific coast mangrove swamps and tidal estuaries.
With a grant of $165,000 from Bisbee Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund, DUMAC in cooperation Ducks Unlimited Inc., the state government of Sinaloa and local organizations, will start this effort. DUMAC will begin by updating its land change detection maps and analyze the habitat loss due to the burgeoning shrimp farming industry in the areas of Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit. It is estimated that over 50,000 acres has been affected in these states in the past 12 years. Identifying land use changes is only one part of a larger project that is intended to help sustain existing swamps and marshes and restore degraded ones.
Mexico’s upper coastal Pacific region includes an area of more than 2.8 million acres of wetlands adjacent to more than 7 million acres of agricultural land. During the last decade, shrimp farming began in Mexico mainly as an export industry and the impacts have been substantial. The economic development has been very good for this region, bringing needed jobs and helping to reduce the impact on wild populations of shrimp. There have been impacts on the environment as well, with wetlands degraded and runoff and water pollution impacting communities along the coasts. Trying to strike a balance, and even find ways to improve both the environment and the industry, is a long term goal.
“We would like to see well-documented and conclusive scientifically gathered information which would allow the Bisbee’s, Ducks Unlimited, and state and federal governments to make conscientious and correct decisions for the benefit of not only fish and wildlife but for people as well.” said R. Wayne Bisbee, founder and president of the fund. “There is value to us as well as the fish and birds”
The West Coast of Mexico contains several important areas for waterfowl and shorebirds. Most of these habitats are tidal estuaries connected with brackish water marshes along the coast, and fresh water wetlands and reservoirs inland. Wetlands along the northern Pacific coast of Mexico have been recognized as wetlands of Hemispheric and International importance for shorebirds, and one of the 28 key wetlands for waterfowl in Mexico. An estimated one third of the shorebirds wintering in the Pacific Coastal region in North America occur in two bays of the state of Sinaloa: Ensenada Pabellones and Santa Maria.
The habitats along the coast of Sinaloa, represent wintering habitat for 23% of the migratory waterfowl in Mexico. The bays of Topolobampo, Santa Maria and Pabellones are among the most important coastal wetlands in Mexico for migratory birds. Over 90% of the all shorebirds and waterfowl that migrate to Mexico from the western Pacific flyway come through this region.
“Two and half years ago we created Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Fund.” Wayne said. “We started on the fisheries side with billfish monitoring projects, a rhino breeding program and an anti-poaching tactical training academy, but have quickly moved into many other cutting edge conservation projects including the brand new partnership with DU for this project and hopefully future ones.” Wayne added “We have 30+ years of working with game fish and conservation minded organizations and have in recent years capitalized on this experience and have now moved into animal conservation and now thanks to DU – waterfowl conservation and habitat restoration.”
Wayne went on to say “ Since DU is so successful at all they put their efforts into we wanted to come along side them and join in on this noble undertaking. We didn’t see a need to create our own expertise. We would rather work with organizations like DU who have people who already know what needs done and how to do it.”
The end product will be a Coastal Land Use Planning Strategy. Organizations, governments and individuals can then address what needs to be done to protect functioning mangrove swamps and intertidal marshes as well as restore others. The goal is to return ecosystems processes and bring balance to this critical wintering environment for waterfowl and shore birds as well and breeding and rearing grounds for hundreds of fish species.