The Mexican government today announced changes to how it will administer the Reserva de la Guadalupe Island Biosphere, a protected marine life area surrounding Guadalupe Island, about 160 miles off the Baja peninsula.
Most notably, the changes indefinitely ban “tourist activities related to the (great) white shark…while the use of drones and other remotely manned technologies will be limited to scientific activity,” according to a statement released by Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (auto-translated).
According to the statement, the move is a response to the “bad practices that put this species at risk,” namely the habit of some cage diving companies of using bait to attract great whites. The new regulations also prohibit sport fishing in the area.
“In this way, the integrity of local fishermen is guaranteed and the conditions are restored for the wildlife of this (protected area) to continue with their life cycles without alterations such as noise, boat, traffic, human interaction with fauna, or the introduction of invasive species,” the statement continues.
While great white sharks are known for their wide range, the species does return to certain areas year after year for breeding or feasting on high-density species. The Reserva de la Guadalupe Island Biosphere is one such area.
The waters around Guadalupe Island are also home to California sea lions, Guadalupe Island fur seals, northern elephant seals, and bottlenose dolphins. Many seabirds, such as the Laysan albatross, also use the island as a nesting ground.
But the updated regulations weren’t met with universal acclaim.
“(Great white shark-related cage diving) has become one of the top economic drivers in the area,” reported USA Today. The outlet stated that from 2014 to 2019, the cage diving vessel operators grew steadily in the area, from six to 10.
The new management strategy will certainly affect the economic prospects of those companies, many of whom are based in San Diego, Calif., or other locations outside of Mexico, according to CNN.
“The great white shark national park at Guadalupe Island will reopen. It might be tomorrow or it might be in five years’ time,” Nautilus Dive Adventures, a cage-diving outfit that operates in the area, wrote on its website. “It won’t last. We believe it’s best to not accept any bookings until we have some certainty on when the park will open.”
The National Commission of Protected Natural Areas’ management programs are reassessed every five years. In the meantime, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the great white shark as a “vulnerable species.”