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And thanks for all the fish….

7 March 2017

The Revillagigedo Islands are the Galapagos of North America.  Explored by Alexander Humbolt (whose own work was instrumental in the development of the theories Charles Darwin worked out after visiting the “other” Galapagos) and by the “Audubon of the West”, Andrew Jackson Grayson (who, incidentally, was a shopkeeper in Mazatlán) , the “distinct terrestrial ecoregion” (some land species and birds are found nowhere else on Earth) with a particularly rich sea life surrounding the Islands, has been a Mexican Protected Area since 1994, and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2016.

Bluefin tuna (stock photo)

The isolated archipelgo closest mainland point is 400 Km northeast at Cabo San Lucas, but for administrative purposes, although it’s only inhabitants are the 40 or so naval personnel and scientists who rotate in and out of the islands, it is included in the municipio of Manzanillo, Colima, almost a thousand kilometers to the east. Not easy to reach, the Mexican navy is not always able to prevent fishing in the protected zone around the islands. Lately, it seems, US sports fishing boats out of San Diego, have been illegally fishing in the protected zone, and… claiming to have property rights on the Islands.

While these may just be a few nuts, ecologists like Dr. James Ketchum of Pelagios Kakunjá have raised the alarm, mostly in the local Baja California press, about the threat both to the protected wildlife, and to Mexican sovereignty.  According to Ketchem, the sports fisherman “do what they want”, given the lack of surveillance.  While there have been incidents in the past, when tuna boats were found in the protected zone, the claims by US fisherman that the islands are under US jurisdiction is a new one.

Although in 1854, the United States Congress, in a particularly over-reaching fit of manifest destiny, passed a resolution declaring any uninhabited island containing guano (and the Revillagigedos have enough birds to leave behind bird-poop) was US territory, the only Mexican island they ever tried to claim was Clipperton… unless Clipperton was British… or French (as, confusingly enough the King of Italy decided it was).  The Revillagigedos are 100% Mexican, and … geeze… do we need to build a sea-wall around them?



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