Finding Solid Ground
by Caroline Wiernicki -- April 29th, 2015
Our last camping trip for the course was to a beach towards the northern face of Tiburón Island, overlooking the Infiernillo Channel. The tents were a respectable stone’s throw away from Puna Círculo, a flat point on the water where Comcáac warriors once danced and sang for victory in their battle against Mexican oppression. Our panga captain, Ernesto, spoke to us of the point’s significance, tracing the outlines of old dancing circles across the sand while he told of his great-grandfather’s role in those past victories. I later on questioned Ernesto about the island’s significance to the Comcáac, curious to learn more about his family’s history and ties to the point. Despite my shaky Spanish, we spoke at length about his people and their connections to Tiburón and San Esteban—another island of great cultural importance to the Comcáac—the conversation turning eventually towards the struggles of conservation and external fishery pressure on the wealth that is the Infernillo Channel’s marine resources. In theme with the general lines of thinking that had shaped the class’ past stakeholder discussions, I asked Ernesto about what he thought of conservation—what it meant to him. His response was a simple one, but powerful. “El respeto.” Respect.
Granted, Ernesto was referring specifically to the respect—or current lack, thereof, through his eyes—of outsider fishermen coming in from Kino to raid the channel’s marine resources. In my mind, however, this one little word stretched wider than just the Kino fishermen’s perception of the Infiernillo. In my mind, this simple concept of respect stretched wide enough to catch even the most seemingly convoluted relationships and motivations that had been straying about my notebook throughout the course: Family, livelihood, trust, cooperatives, committees, catch shares, self-determination, fish buyers, government, outsiders, insider, CONANP, SAGARPA…the list of actors, influences, and connections goes on and knots heavily along the way. Yet, at the base of it all—community, conservation, governance, and small-scale fisheries—these themes rely upon respect. Respect of the natural resources themselves—as we saw with the preventative desires of the clam fishery cooperatives in Puerto Libertad—as well as respect among the stakeholders, at various levels of authority and across a wide scale of interests—as we saw in the communication and successful dynamic among the committee dedicated to marine resource management on San Pedro Nolasco Island. Long story short, I realized that every single dynamic we observed in
this trip between people, resources, and institutions, could be boiled down to the need for respect. Whether it is respecting the natural world, the needs of future generations, or the needs of a fisherman, fish buyer, and conservationist, I have realized that this “due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others” is at the foundation of any success. For any progress to be made in and across those four themes by which the course is defined–regardless of the politics, of the depth, and of the complexity–the first step must be on this simple, solid ground.