Las Marietas – Biosphere Reserve Part III

The Islas Marietas (Marietas Islands) are located in the marine system of Bahía de Banderas. Its physiographic composition is a hilly plain with a rocky alluvial floor. The group consists of two islands known as “La Larga” (The Long One) and “La Redonda” (The Round One), two islets, all the superficial surrounding rocks and several rocky-sandy shallows; it can therefore be considered an archipelago.  

Continuing our research on the Islas Marietas, decreed a National Park, one of our country’s National Protected Areas and also recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, I interviewed again my friend, biologist Amilcar Levi Cupul Magaña, who kindly gave me more information from existing bibliography and from the field research carried out on the islands and their zone of influence, which I am sharing with you as follows:

A Little bit of the history of their protection and preservation:

The Islas Marietas have been a matter of interest on the part of several sectors of the population who consider them of importance under different scopes. That is why several proposals and efforts have been made to obtain their official protection.

 In 1992, the Cousteau Society proposed the Recreational Parks/Reserves Plan, considering the Punta de Mita – Las Marietas Complex as a zone where a rational management of resources was required by means of establishing reserved and protected areas. The main goal of this plan was: To provide passive recreation and environmental, marine-oriented education to tourists as well as to generate income for the management of marine resources. Fishermen were also supposed to integrate a committee that would bring together all the different sectors involved in the benefits the park would offer.

In 1995, the company Corporativo Ambiental, S.A. de C.V. coordinated the participation of several research and higher education institutions as well as social organizations and private companies; they would undertake the technical work that would justify the declaration of the Islas Marietas as a flora and fauna protection zone. The proposal was sent to the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (National Ecology Institute) but no reply was obtained.

The Ministry for the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP, 1997), considered the Islas Marietas a priority area to be established as a Natural Protected Area in accordance with the document “Áreas Naturales Prioritarias para la Conservación en la Región II” (Region II’s Priority Natural Areas for Conservation), highlighting the conservation of genetic resources and the maintenance of representative ecosystems. Later, the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) published the Official Norm NOM-131-SEMARNAT-1998, establishing rules and specifications for the operation of whale watching activities, regarding their protection and the preservation of their habitat. The norm, also includes in its complementary notice, published on the Diario Oficial de la Federación (Federation Official Journal), a one-kilometer zone around the Islas Marietas labeled as restricted  as well as a zone of one-kilometer running along the coastline from Litibú beach, north of Punta Mita, to the mouth of the Ameca River.

 Since 1997 the Bay of Banderas is considered and recognized as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, according to “The most beautiful bays in the world Club” Within this framework the Universidad de Guadalajara, in coordination with the Fideicomiso Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta Trust Fund), performed the General Diagnose of the Bahía de Banderas with the environmental, social and cultural research which allowed them to identify the important aspects to be monitored.

In 1998 CONABIO (National Commission for Biodiversity Management) considered the Bay of Banderas a priority marine region for conservation, establishing the ecological importance of the area, since it is where two high-priority terrestrial regions converge.

Due to the great national and international importance of the islands as nesting sites of various bird species, among them Sula leucogaster, Anous stolidus, Larus articilla y Sterna anaethetus; Rebón-Gallardo and their collaborators proposed the Islas Marietas to be added to the AICAS system (Áreas de Importancia para la Conservación de las Aves en México – Areas of Importance for the Conservation of the Bird Species of Mexico); the proposal was accepted under the category G-4-A (AICA 29). This system reports the presence of 84 bird species.

In the year 2000, the company  Vallarta Adventures S.A. de C.V. financed part of the research that was missing from the 1995 proposal, this research supported the actual proposal for the area’s declaration. That same year Cupul-Magaña and collaborators, pointed out the importance of considering the protection and preservation of the Islas Marietas by virtue of them being one of the sites of greater interest for the practice of touristic activities in the Bay of Banderas.

During 2003 CONANP (National Protected Areas Commission) proposed the Islas Marietas as a Ramsar site and on February 2nd, 2004, the inclusion of the islands as Ramsar site #1345 was concluded. Ramsar takes its name from the city in Iran where the first international congress on the protection of wetlands and estuaries was held in 1971. Ramsar is now supported by 158 countries worldwide.

The Islas Marietas are located in a transition zone between the Nearctic and Neotropic bio-geographic areas, therefore species found the southern and northern limits of their distribution cohabit in its land and marine areas. The area is also the confluence of three water masses, the Current of California, the Coastal Current of Costa Rica, and the water mass from the Gulf of California (Wyrtki, 1965). For the above reasons the Islas Marietas constitute a habitat that allows the cohabitation of some marine species from the central and southern Mexican Pacific with those of the Gulf of California and the Pacific Coast of the Baja California.

The presidential decree points out the considerations justifying the creation of this national park that the Islas Marietas are of great scientific, educational and touristic value due to their wealth of ichthyologic and ornithological fauna, constituting a fundamental site for the reproductive processes of the populations of endangered species such as the humpback whale, the pacific ridley turtle and various bird species. Besides that, the area is not only the ideal habitat for the evolution of several species, but also one of unique scenic and natural beauty, therefore a most adequate location for the practice of research and touristic activities.


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