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Science, society, and flagship species: social and political history as keys to conservation outcomes in the Gulf of California

Andrés M Cisneros-Montemayor, Nereus Program and Ocean Canada, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia
Amanda CJ Vincent, Project Seahorse, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08255-210209

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Abstract

Socio-political issues are important in environmental policy outcomes but are often overlooked in conservation planning. We analyze the effects of historical social, political, and ecological contexts on conservation policy outcomes as applied to the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve. A rushed implementation, perhaps necessary for the protection of endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and vaquita (Phocoena sinus), occurred with little community consultation, resulting in enduring disgruntlement among stakeholders that undermined its effectiveness. Overfishing and habitat degradation continue both inside and outside the reserve, and totoaba and vaquita remain Critically Endangered, with the latter’s population estimated at approximately 90 individuals. Marine reserves can be useful, but when top-down enforcement is unfeasible, effective environmental policy requires full recognition and integration of political history and social structures and needs, and open discussion on trade-offs when win-win situations are not possible.

Key words

Biosphere Reserve; flagship species; Gulf of California; social-ecological dynamics; totoaba; vaquita

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087