Gulf of California

Day 8. Borbolla Shrimp Farm
by -- March 24th, 2010

Wide open spaces unless you have nine hundred thousand gallons of diesel fuel.

I was the last to wake up this morning at 7:00 a.m., including among our Prescott College friends. I think I could get used to sleeping under a Palapa, although the wind was strong enough during the night not only to wake me up a few times but to switch our day’s plan from San Esteban Island to the Borbolla Shrimp Farm. Our group works so well and smoothly together that before I knew it we were meeting Mario at the local gas station to lead us to the farm.

With a brief introduction, after which Xavier pointed out that the men indicated their social class by first saying they only had a bachelor’s degree, we were off with our tour: the dormitories where the workers slept; the chow hall, being the only place you would find a women worker; the “lab”; and the work area. We didn’t get far before there were only questions and answers.  We saw only a small percentage of the 80 workers that could be employed by the farm. They were making filters for the incoming water, getting ready for April 15, the day the state of Sonora will allow the shrimp farms to begin their 175 day cycle. This day is chosen to avoid the white spot virus that the shrimp are susceptible to under colder temperatures, when their immune system is weakest.

There is a man-made canal 7 km (over 4 miles) long. Water flows down 4 meters over the course of this canal from the ocean, keeping a ready supply of salt water for the farm. Pumps push this water up to the shrimp “ponds” at a rate of 3.2 tons per second. Even with such a fast flow, the pumps take over a week to pump the 50 ponds full. That’s because each pond is over 6 football fields long, almost one and a half wide, and a meter deep. Since it is more than a week before April 15, all of them were empty. So, we walked down into one and had great conversations ranging from the U.S.A.’s recent cease of buying Mexico’s wild shrimp due to the absence of turtle excluding device use, to the government buying shrimp trawling permits back and sinking the boat for artificial reefs, to the amount of diesel fuel it took to operate the farm for a year, 900000 gallons.

On the ride home, we picked up food for our remaining two full days in Kino, and the shrimp farm’s subsidized switch from diesel to electricity-from a diesel plant- sparked the conversation of the good, the bad, and the ugly for what used to be… wide open spaces.

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