The Tijuana Estuary just north of the U.S.-Mexico border is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and a NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve. This coastal and marine ecosystem provides critical habitat for more than 300 species of birds, leopard sharks, bottlenose dolphins, gray whales, and California spiny lobster. It is an important recreational, coastal, and economic resource for communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Unfortunately, this coastal habitat and the health of border communities are under threat from toxic runoff, like Baja California’s sewage, plastic debris, and California-generated waste tires. Tijuana’s unregulated urban sprawl and limited trash collection, especially in the city’s steep canyons, have produced a tsunami of trash and sediment that drains into the Tijuana River basin, impacting San Diego before eventually making its way into the Pacific Ocean. Plastics, waste tires, and large debris blanket coastal ecosystems and impact more than six local, state, and federally protected areas. They clog sewage collection systems, exacerbate flooding, and are vectors for mosquito-borne diseases, including yellow fever and dengue.