Gulf of California

Life under the Sonoran Sun
by -- April 24th, 2017

Hola! Buenos Dias! Hello! Greetings! I will be guiding you through our first two days here in Kino Bay and some of Puerto Libertad. So, sit back, relax and read on mis amigos. Today we explored Bahia de Kino (Kino Bay) and its fisheries and aquaculture centers. The Kino fishing community we visited today has been around for about 15 years and its population is a mix of people who have lived here their whole life and those individuals who are from the outer towns coming into the area to fish because they were economically displaced from their home towns. It started as a recreational fishing, hunting and gathering community where now its main activities or occupations that its community members are involved in include construction, janitorial, and fishing. In addition to its permanent inhabitants, the population of Kino fluctuates with incoming and outgoing fishers, as they stay around 15 days at a time in order to receive some income in a short term job outside their hometown. There are various stages of economic stability here in Bahia de Kino because it depends on the availability of capital and its necessity in creating a life for yourself and your family. The lack of urban planning makes having a steady job with a monthly or weekly check a luxury to its residents. However, because of their ability to endure the uncertain, they are better at adapting to circumstances that rise and are constantly hard at work to provide and survive.

Fishermen in Kino fixing a gill net. (Photo taken by Briana Kleiner)

To revisit the reason that most fishers in Kino do not dwell in Kino for long periods, it is because they often have two different occupations to which they dedicate their time to. For example, I was able to meet this young man who happened to be around my age and was studying Industrial Engineering at a school in Guaymas just north of here. Dressed in a snapback, a polo and a pair of jeans, he talked about how he is a part-time student and a part-time fisher, only having been in Bahia de Kino for around 15 days now. He was just here to help the local fishers in the area, as he visits his aunt and his other family who own a restaurant in town. “It pays the bills,” he said, which I completely understand because student loans are THE WORST. The other men nearby and one of the men who is in charge of a group on the shore who knew Xavier from last year were also very invested in the economic profit to be gained from fishing. They do not feel that they get enough support for being educated in Mexico nor do they feel that they are able “to be” something, because of the financial cost and other discouraging challenges like obtaining a permit (a long, complicated and costly process). This made me reflect on the advantages and disadvantages these fishers have when it comes to being who they are and what they are doing. I thought about how much I take advantage of back home in the United States that these men and women work so hard just to get a portion of. Resources like clean water, fresh food, electricity, scraps of metal, cement or wood to create infrastructures for their homes are essential for living their daily lives. I can go obtain these resources just with a quick drive to the store, whereas they may need to drive several kilometers and save up just to afford one of these things. We had such a wonderful time talking with them, joking about who is going to help them clean their boat so that we can learn what it is really like to be a fisher, and asking about their lives and how they came to be where they are today. I could tell they really enjoyed being listened to as well as respected for what they are doing to support themselves and their families.

COBI’s truck parked on the beach outside of Puerto Libertad. (Photo taken by Briana Kleiner)

We then were fortunate to visit Dona Eva’s house where Anastasia had stayed as a homestay for two weeks last year and learn about her role as a fish buyer and the benefits and challenges that she faces. Unfortunately, Eva was on vacation in the Estados Unidos but we were fortunate to meet with Fidela, her daughter-in-law, who helps run the business while she is away along with her other son Mario. It is very unique for a woman to be a fish buyer here in Mexico and it was admitted that it was weird at first, but both Dona Eva and Fidela are now respected by the fishers they interact with. From the anecdotes that I have heard about Dona Eva, it would have been awesome to meet her, but every hard worker deserves a day off! We also had the pleasure of meeting Ernesto and Lorena, representatives of the NGO, COBI (Comunidad y Biodiversidad Asociación Civil) here in Mexico. COBI is a Mexican non-profit organization that seeks to mitigate the unsustainable use of marine resources and the subsequent degradation of marine ecosystems. Ernesto is originally from Guaymas like the fisher I met the first day, and holds the position of Chief of Sustainable Fisheries in his region. COBI has four different focus areas: Capacity building of leaders in Fisheries, Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Reserves, and Public Policies. After having been established on March 15, 1999, it began working towards innovating fisheries and developing fisheries improvement projects! (Sidenote: Xavier, our professor, is a co-founder of COBI!) They work closely with members of fisheries, co-operatives and fishing communities to encourage conservation of the sea and its four main focus areas. They set out to have transparent participation of all stakeholders and interest groups involved in the usage of resources in fisheries and oceans in general. Such an emphasis on transparency and equity therefore allows for higher quality practices of participation and applicable scientific research to develop the best models to prevent further exploitation of fishery resources in Mexico. COBI has been significant in the lives of many individuals and co-operatives, especially in this region of Mexico.

Gabriel shows us the cooked side of the Yellow-Tail. YUM! (Photo taken by Briana Kleiner)

We had the pleasure of meeting Gabriel in Puerto Libertad, the president of a fishing co-operative here in Puerto Libertad. He is one of the many individuals that COBI has made a difference in the life of. Gabriel is in the process of maintaining a model of sustainably catching the clams that he provides to his clients. The market does not recognize conservation, therefore it is Gabriel’s choice whether he wishes to possess the eye of a man of the market or a man of the community. Gabriel has managed to integrate both into his life, and recognizes the challenges and benefits of being focused on both the economic and social pieces of his position in the community. In addition to wanting to conserve and maintain their stocks, he is a witness of the value and success of sustainable management because his clams had received second place in a cooking competition and was also nationally recognized for fishing sustainably. To quote Gabriel, “COBI saved our lives” because they helped the fishers combine the mindset of leaving an inheritance for their kids and the duty they have to the ocean to not be predators by to be caretakers of what it offers us. By being not only the president, but the representative for all the fishermen in Puerto Libertad, Gabriel upholds his responsibility not just to the community but to the ocean. To meet Gabriel, who is the first person with a past in fishing to hold a position of public policy power, was an honor. He really wants to see a future for not just his community, not just for his family, but for the ocean. I really admired his position and dedication, also, his leadership. His presence and big heart really brightened up the hut we all sat

Penshells (Callo) prepared by Gabriel! (Photo taken by Briana Kleiner)

under as he prepared Yellow-Tail (a fin-fish), which he negotiated for us to get, to be cooked on the grill by him. Let me tell you, IT WAS DELICIOUS. He had prepared it, seasoned it, and cooked it, all by himself. The end product of fish tacos, which I have to admit, I had three of, was muy delicioso! If I was not so full, I would have had many more. We even were able to try penshells, also known as callo! His generosity and kind spirit is one I will not forget from my experience in Puerto Libertad. As I fell asleep under the stars that night as we camped for the first time along the shore of a nearby beach just off the pristine desert, I reflected on the importance of community, family, and the sustaining of one’s livelihood because it is all these individuals know. They have made so many sacrifices and spent so much time working for moments like this where they can laugh, joke, eat, drink and be merry under the Sonoran desert sun. Moments where they can just live.

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