A comparison of fishing activities between two coastal communities within a biosphere reserve in the Upper Gulf of California
We engaged in collaborative research with two small-scale fishing communities inside the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, San Felipe (SF) and El Golfo de Santa Clara (GSC), to test how well the geographic heterogeneity of fishing activities within the reserve coincided with current regulations. We compared the two communities in terms of catch composition, fishing effort, ex-vessel prices and revenues, seasonal patterns in fishing activities in relation to the reproductive seasons of target species, and spatial patterns of fishing in relation to managed zones within the reserve. The top four species (Cynoscion othonopterus, Micropogonias megalops, Scomberomorus concolor, Litopenaeus stylirostris) in terms of relative effort, catch, and revenues were the same for both communities but overall fisheries production, effort, and revenues were higher in GSC than SF for these species. Fishing activities in GSC followed a predictable annual cycle that began with L. stylirostris and were followed sequentially by the harvesting of C. othonopterus, M. megalops, and S. concolor during their respective spawning seasons, which were associated with seasonal variations in ex-vessel prices. Conversely, catch and revenues in SF were more diversified, less dependent on those four species, less seasonal, and did not show seasonal variations in prices. Interactions between fisheries and managed zones also differed such that SF interacted mainly with the southwest portion of the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) refuge, whereas GSC fished over a larger area and interacted mainly with the northeast portion of the vaquita refuge and the no-take zone. Our results indicate the two communities differ markedly in their socio-economic dependence on fisheries, their spatio-temporal patterns of fishing, their use of and impacts on species, coastal ecosystems and managed areas, and how different regulations may affect livelihoods. Regional management and conservation efforts should account for these differences to ensure the protection of endangered species and to sustain ecosystem services that maintain livelihoods and healthy coastal ecosystems. This study provides further evidence of the ability of collaborative research between scientists and fishers to produce robust and fine-scale fisheries and biological information that improves the collective knowledge and management of small-scale fisheries within marine protected areas.