ALFREDO AZCARATTE VARELA
THE BAJA POST/EDITOR
On Monday, February 27, the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations and other International Organizations based in Geneva, submitted the Action Plan to combat the illicit fishery and traffic of totoaba fish (totoaba macdonaldi), as agreed in the Nineteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-19) of CITES, as well as in the 75th meeting of its Standing Committee (SC- 75), which took place in Panama in November 2022.
Mexico’s Government Action Plan ais to prevent totoaba illegal fishing and trade, its body parts and/or derivatives, such as the bladder which is worth millions of dollars in the black market, in order to protect the “vaquita marina”, the plan has been validated at the highest institutional level by the members of the Intragovernmental Group on Sustainability in the Upper Gulf of California (GIS).
The Action Plan was delivered to the Secretary of the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and reception has already been confirmed, according to a press reease from the Secetary of Environemnt Protection of Mexico (SEMARNAT).
It complies with the guidelines agreed at COP19, the recommendations of SC75, and the determinations of the results report of the assessment, in the 75th meeting of its Standing Committee (SC- 75), which took place in Panama in November 202.
The plan includes several considerations expressed by the international community in other regional and multilateral forums and instruments, with the purpose of generating synergies which may allow strengthening the actions that the Government of Mexico carries out in the Upper Gulf of California to protect the vaquita and prevent illegal bladder traffic.
Likewise, this document includes observations that the CITES Secretariat made to the preliminary version sent at the beginning of February with the purpose of improving the final work presented in a timely manner.
The plan includes 6 lines of action that are accompanied by the steps to be followed by the responsible units and the deadlines for compliance.
1. Prevent the entry of vessels to the Zero Tolerance Area (Zo), as well as keep it free of gillnets together with the Refuge Area for the Protection of the Vaquita Marina (ZRV).
2. Monitor effective compliance with regard to authorized loading and unloading sites, in accordance with the Regulatory Agreement.
3. Implement a program for alternative fishing gear and the program for tagging and fishing equipment for small vessels.
4. Monitor the vaquita population.
5. Trilateral contact group for law enforcement in operation.
6. Improve law enforcement and financial intelligence.
The Action Plan proceedings are based upon the power and attributions of the Federal Agencies and organizations that make up the GIS: Environment, Navy, Agriculture, Foreign Relations Secretary, as well as the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission (Conapesca ), the National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Inapesca), the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa), the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp), the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Attorney General.
Mexico Government expressed to the CITES Secretariat its complete disposition to answer any questions or comments on the Action Plan and host another assessment mission again when it deems it appropriate.