The People and the Park: How a Small Mexican Community Created one of the World’s Most Successful Marine Preserves

Cabo Pulmo National Park is a 27-square mile protected area in the Gulf of California, near the southern end of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The park surrounds one of the oldest coral reefs on the western coast of North America. Once damaged and depleted by overfishing, the reef has seen an incredible recovery since its protection in 1995. This recovery is due in large part to the efforts of the very people who once fished the reef. The adjacent community of Cabo Pulmo, in collaboration with a group of scientists from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in La Paz, Mexico, requested the marine protected area, acted as vigilante enforcers for the park’s rules, and worked to prevent proposed developments that might damage the ecosystem. As the ecosystem has recovered, they have been able to reap the economic benefits of the park, opening dive shops and restaurants. The story of their struggles and triumphs can provide valuable lessons for community-based conservation efforts around the world.


Laura Castañón

About Laura Castañón

Laura has never managed to be just one thing. While growing up in Needham, Massachusetts, her indulgent parents allowed her to fill their home with collections of insect molts and unidentified bones as well as the deconstructed remains of old TVs and a ship’s radar. She attended Washington University in St. Louis where she earned a first major in theatrical design and technology and a second in environmental studies, while spending her free time performing story-based comedy. After graduation, her job titles ranged from mad scientist to tall ship bos’n to theatrical carpenter and electrician. She has repaired windsurfers, lectured about climate change, built elaborate golden candelabras, and taught preschoolers how to pet a snail. Laura sees science writing as the perfect intersection of these disparate interests. Her experiences in performance and education have made her a lively communicator and storyteller, and her dual interests in technology and nature make MIT the ideal place to turn those skills into writing. Laura has two dogs and a gecko to keep her company through her endeavors. The dogs are a constant delight and remind her that hiking is better than working. The gecko reminds her that she is slightly less important than a piece of banana. Thesis: The People and the Park: How a Small Mexican Community Created one of the World’s Most Successful Marine Preserves


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