Aug. 29 - A marine reserve at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula has been declared the world's most robust marine reserve by scientists at California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A decade-long analysis of Cabo Pulmo National Park reveals that fish numbers increased by more than 460 percent between 1999 and 2009, thanks to a ban on fishing. Rob Muir reports.
Sixteen years ago, the Gulf grouper had almost disappeared from Cabo Pulmo, a reef near the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Overfishing had decimated the grouper and many other species but today they are thriving. Top predators have also returned...all because of a ban on fishing imposed in 1995. A ten-year study of the reef by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, concludes that the Cabo Pulmo National Park is now the most robust marine reserve in the world. The ban is fully supported by local communities. Lead author, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, says that since it was put in place, Cabo Pulmo's fish population has more than quadrupled. SOUNDBITE (English) OCTAVIO ABURTO-OROPEZA, RESEARCHER, SCRIPPS INSTITUTE OF OCEANOGRAPHY, SAYING: "The numbers of jacks, groupers, snappers increase every year because the spawning aggregations or the reproduction aggregations have been protected and they basically are reproducing more and more." Cabo Pulmo covers and area of 71 square kilometres, by far the largest of the world's marine parks where a "no fishing" policy has succeeded. Whereas the local fishermen once exploited the reef, they are now protecting it. That support extends to the non-fish species who depend on the reef for their own survival. . Aburto-Oropeza says the community is now reaping the benefits of a thriving eco-tourism industry. SOUNDBITE (English) OCTAVIO ABURTO-OROPEZA, RESEARCHER, SCRIPPS INSTITUTE OF OCEANOGRAPHY, SAYING: "With Cabo Pulmo we have the opportunity to establish how an area that is so productive can restore other areas and other people can receive the benefits, not only in terms of ecological benefits but also in terms of economic benefits." According to the Scripps Institution, Cabo Pulmo's successful transformation into a biodiversity "hot spot" has made it a model for the many other areas depleted by fishing around the world. Rob Muir, Reuters.