Habitat Survey Planned for
Bay of Loreto National Park
This January 2000, Rick Starr of the University of California, Sea Grant Extensions Program will begin a ground breaking research project: The Characterization of Marine Habitats and Species in the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto. The following is a summary Starr wrote for Baja Life on his intended project.

The Gulf of California has long been recognized as an area with rich marine life. The high species diversity and abundance of marine fauna in the Gulf of California was widely reported by John Steinbeck in books about his travels to the region. For centuries prior to the journey of Steinbeck, the abundant marine resources in the Gulf of California supported small artisanal fisheries. Similar fisheries continue today, along with newer, larger commercial and recreational fisheries.

Some of the larger fisheries have caused declines in fish species in the Gulf of California. Many coastal communities throughout the world are grappling with similar resource conservation problems. Marine resources are dwindling and current management measures appear to be insufficient to sustain fishery resources. The intensive fishing effort that has occurred in the last 20 years has caused a decrease in the abundance and size composition of many marine species. In some regions of the world, communities often do not even have baseline information with which to develop sound resource management plans.

In response to concerns about resource declines, the Mexican government established the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, with goals of improving resource characterization, education, and management. The Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto covers an area of 2,065 km2, and is located near the town of Loreto on the western side of the Gulf of California 200 km north of La Paz, Mexico, and 1500 km south of Los Angeles, California.

I am working with people from the Loreto Park, Grupo Ecologista Antares, and the Universidad Autonoma de BCS in La Paz to survey the habitats and species of the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto. We are planning a two year project to map habitats in the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, and to record the type and number of fish species using SCUBA and underwater camera surveys. We plan to estimate the species composition and size composition of marine fishes, and compare results with similar information obtained from commercial and recreational fishing operations.

We hope the project will benefit the resource users and community of Loreto by providing information that can be used to develop sustainable fishery management plans. An additional benefit of this project is that we will be training students from both Moss Landing Marine Laboratory in the US and Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur in advanced geophysical and biological techniques for habitat assessment. Thus, in addition to providing scientific information for immediate use, our project will improve the capability of Mexican scientists to evaluate changes in the natural resources of the Park.

Richard M. Starr
Marine Advisor
University of California
Sea Grant Extension Program
PO Box 440
Moss Landing, CA 95039

Phone: (831) 633-7266
FAX: (831) 633-7267
email: starr@mlml.calstate.edu