MEXICO CITY – Everything can be monetized, including nature, which often legitimizes the over-exploitation of natural resources, at a time when sustainable activities seek to grain ground.
The co-director of the non-governmental organization Pelagic Life, Eduardo Martinez, told EFE that authorities and rural communities in Mexico must act to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity, as wildlife is worth more alive than dead.
According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), every year some 100 million sharks are killed due to commercial fishing.
Yet the shark diving industry provided The Bahamas with $800 million in revenue during the last 20 years.
Martinez said that his organization is seeking to replicate this model in Mexico with fishermen in San Carlos, Baja California, by informing them about the potential economic benefits of taking groups of tourists to swim with sharks.
Those fishermen could earn up to 5,000 pesos ($266) with these tourism activities, while they only receive 500 pesos ($26) for each dead shark they sell at the fish market.
Other community tourism projects throughout Mexico could be based on observing species such as whales, manta rays, ocean sunfish, marlins, orcas and turtles, Martinez said.
According to Martinez, Mexico has fallen behind in the development of sustainable ecotourism, partly because of the excessive environmental management regulations that the country’s Secretariat of the Environment (Semarnat) requires.
He considers that Semarnat’s regulations include unrealistic requirements that limit the development of ecotourism and impede rural communities from abiding by those specifications.
This is one of the reasons why residents in many rural communities prefer to kill those species than to take advantage of their economic value as an attraction for tourists, Martinez said.
In addition, according to Martinez, there is a lack of research in Mexico about the economic benefits that protecting wildlife could create through community tourism projects, which is another factor limiting the conservation of many species.