Government considers reducing area set aside for endangered porpoise

NewsA vaquita marina trapped in a gillnet. A vaquita marina trapped in a gillnet. ©OMAR VIDAL

Reduced numbers of remaining vaquitas is justification for the change, says environment ministry

Published on Monday, March 1, 2021

The federal government said Saturday it is considering reducing the area in the upper Gulf of California where the critically endangered vaquita marina porpoise is protected.

The measure would reduce the area where there is a ban on the use of gillnets, in which the world’s smallest porpoises are prone to becoming entangled and dying.

But there are fears that allowing the nets to be used across a larger area of the gulf would increase the risk of the species going extinct. There are currently as few as 10 vaquitas in the Gulf of California, the only place in the world they live.×150&!3&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=fjinHiZwlu&p=https%3A//

The Environment Ministry (Semarnat) said that a decrease in the number of vaquitas and the area where they have been seen in recent years provides justification for reducing the size of the protected area.

The area extends from the Colorado River delta in the north of the Gulf past the fishing town of San Felipe on the west coast and near Puerto Peñasco on the east coast.

“The possibility of modifying the area of gillnet bans is being studied,” Semarnat said in a statement.

“There have been enough technical studies to indicate a possible reduction in the zone, according to the recent distribution of the vaquita marina in the area.”

The ministry said the possibility would be discussed by a group that includes fishermen, academics, members of the general public and government officials. A first report on the outcome of the discussions will be presented on March 26, Semarnat said.

Many fishermen have vehemently opposed the gillnet ban because they use the nets to catch totoaba, another endangered species whose swim bladders are considered a delicacy in China and yield thousands of dollars per kilogram. Mexican drug cartels are said to be involved in the illegal fishing and trafficking of totoaba, a large member of the sciaenidae, or drum, family of fish.

Fishermen have staged protests against the gillnet ban and attacked vessels operated by Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation group that removes nets in the protected area. Fishermen have also clashed with the navy, which carries out patrols against illegal fishing in the Gulf of California.

Alex Olivera, Mexico representative for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that reducing the size of the protected area would inevitably increase the likelihood of the small remaining population of vaquitas encountering a gillnet.

“Reducing the zone … means cutting the area available to the vaquita marina, and of course this species doesn’t live in a pen, it lives in the marine environment, so as soon as it leaves the zone, it could face gillnets, which are a threat,” he said.

Corona beer stops production

New York (CNN Business)Production of Corona beer is being temporarily suspended in Mexico because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Grupo Modelo, the company that makes the beer, posted the announcement on Twitter, stating that it’s halting production and marketing of its beer because the Mexican government has shuttered non-essential businesses. The Anheuser-Busch Inbev-owned company also makes Modelo and Pacifico beers.
This week, the Mexican government announced the suspension of non-essential activities in the public and private sectors until April 30 in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. The country has more than 1,500 cases and 50 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
Grupo Modelo is ready to enact a plan to “guarantee the supply of beer” if the Mexican government decides to include breweries as essential, according to a statement.
Constellation Brands (STZ) handles the distribution and import of Grupo Modelo’s beers in the United States. CEO Bill Newlands said in an earnings call the brand has “ample supply to meet consumer demand” and doesn’t expect shortages in the near term.
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Corona’s coincidental name with the virus hasn’t dented sales. Constellation said sales of its beer brands grew 8.9% for the first three months of this year, with Modelo and Corona being its top sellers. Sales accelerated in the first three weeks of March, the company said, with its beers growing 24% compared to a year ago.
Corona Hard Seltzer, which launched in early March, is also off to a “strong start,” according to a company earnings release.
Beer and other alcohol are rising in sales this month as Americans are being forced to hunker down in light of the coronavirus. Sales numbers from Nielsen (NLSN) show beer sales rose 34% year-over-year for the week ending on March 21.

Conservationists shot at by poachers during Gulf of California patrol

The Sea Shepherd vessel Sharpie. The Sea Shepherd vessel Sharpie. SEA SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY

The vessel was on a mission to protect the endangered vaquita marina porpoise

Four fishing skiffs known as pangas approached the M/V Sharpie and began to chase it at full speed just after 10:00 a.m., Sea Shepherd said in a statement.

At least two shots fired from the pangas landed in the water near the Sea Shepherd vessel but it was not hit. There were no injuries among the conservationists on board nor the officials from the navy, Federal Police and Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) who accompanied them.

The incident occurred in an area of the upper Gulf of California known as a “critical zone” because several vaquitas have been sighted there.

In response to the attack, the captain of the Sharpie carried out anti-piracy procedures, which included the use of water cannons.

The Sharpie activates water cannons as one of the attacking boats lies nearby.
The Sharpie activates water cannons as one of the attacking boats lies nearby. SEA SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY

“This just shows how aggressive the poachers are here,” said Captain Jacqueline Le Duc.

“It proves to us that they are armed and that we need to take every panga that we come across seriously, because we have no idea what they are capable of,” she said.

Profepa condemned the attack in a statement and said that it would cooperate with investigations to bring the perpetrators to justice. It also said that it would continue to collaborate with Sea Shepherd and security forces in the effort to protect the environment.

Experts estimate that there are only between six and 19 vaquitas left in the Gulf of California, the only place in the world they live.

The attack on Saturday occurred in the same area where Sea Shepherd found a dead vaquita trapped in a net last March. Profepa said that the vaquita was in a state of advanced decomposition but had stab wounds consistent with the cutting of the net in which the animal was entangled.

Sea Shepherd has been collaborating with Mexican authorities for six years to remove gillnets from the Gulf of California.

Desperate to protect the fat profits they make from selling totoaba on the black market, poachers have resorted to violence in the past.

The Sea Shepherd vessel M/V Farley Mowat was attacked last January by crew members on more than 50 skiffs, who threw rocks and molotov cocktails at the ship, breaking its windows and causing its hull to catch fire.

The same vessel was ambushed and boarded by poachers earlier the same month, the United States-based marine conservation organization said.

Coyotes are poised to invade South America. Humans are to blame.

A coyote wearing a GPS radio collar roams Elysian Park in Los Angeles after a heavy rain in May. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
A coyote wearing a GPS radio collar roams Elysian Park in Los Angeles after a heavy rain in May. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Jan. 9, 2020 at 11:15 a.m. PST

There’s an invasion afoot at the border of Central America and South America. The assailant: North America’s coyote.

Coyotes are among the most adaptable species in the world. No matter where they go, they seem to make themselves at home, from the frosty tundras of Canada to the deserts of Mexico to the busy cities of the United States. Historically, their range ended where the jungles of Central America began, but now scientists worry that barrier isn’t holding up.

A recent study underscores why: Deforestation in the rainforests of Panama has carved out new routes of passage for the coyote. Before long, the paper’s authors warn, the species could inhabit an entirely new continent — the first wave in what could be a new threat to the biodiversity of the Western hemisphere.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Mammalogy, used camera-trap surveys and data from roadkill to track the movement of the intrepid animal. Coyotes began punching through the jungles south of Mexico in the 1950s, reaching the isthmus of Panama in the early 1980s. Since then, as the country lost hundreds of thousands of acres of jungle to agriculture, the animals rapidly expanded their territory, crossing the Panama Canal around 2014.

in the course of just three years, beginning in 2015, the animals pushed forward their territory by at least 124 miles, the study says. Scientists have detected the species all the way to the western edge of Panama’s Darien National Park — the last obstacle left before they reach South America.

That obstacle might just hold back the coyote’s conquest. After all, humans have yet to tame Darien’s dense jungles and wetlands, home to fierce jaguars and deadly snakes. Attempts at completing a road through the region — which would have filled the last remaining gap in the Pan-American Highway running from northern Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina — failed in the 1970s, and humans have yet to attempt it since.

But the cunning coyote might yet prevail. “Anyone who studies coyotes for long knows not to underestimate them,” said Roland Kays, head of the Biodiversity Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and co-author of the study.

Kays points out that another invasive species has already made the jump from one American continent to the next — in the opposite direction. The crab-eating fox, another adventurous canid species native to South America, made its way from Colombia to Panama through the Darien gap a couple of years ago, also largely thanks to deforestation. The fox species and the coyote now share territory for the first time in recorded history.

The ramifications for such a species interchange have yet to be seen, but if previous episodes of invasive species tell us anything, it won’t be good. Coyotes that reach South America would almost certainly spread far and wide, just as they have in the north. The coyotes aren’t typically any more threatening than feral dogs. But they would disrupt food chains and compete for ecological resources with native wildlife across the continent. They would also clash with South American human communities, as they have in North American cities.

And coyotes could just be the start. As deforestation continues, other species might follow the path across the Darien gap, including insects and agricultural pests. Who knows what havoc such travelers could wreak on either side of the Panamanian land bridge?

Why risk such a fate? Fortunately, the nations of Central America resolved last month at the U.N. COP 25 Climate Change Conference to halt the destruction of the “five great forests” of southern Mexico and Central America, including the Darien. It’s an encouraging development, but those nations must be held accountable to make sure they actually follow through.

To begin, they can set one concrete goal: Hold the line against invading coyotes. Fortify the region’s rainforest defenses. Do everything possible to keep these animals from arriving in a new continent. If we can stave off this offense, perhaps we can win the bigger war to save biodiversity.

Read more:

To Survive in Texas, Black Bears Need an Open Border

As a child Diana Doan-Crider loved hearing her grandfather’s tales of the grizzly bears and wolves he saw in the early 1900s while working to build Mexico’s railroads through the mountains. A Tepehuán Indian from Durango Mexico, he told vivid stories, and his knowledge of nature inspired her to become a wildlife biologist when she grew up and to spend decades researching black bears in northern Coahuila’s mountains, just across the Texas border.

That was an important time for black bears, which had all but vanished from Texas in the 1950s following decades of hunting, trapping and habitat loss. The animals started to return to Texas’s Big Bend National Park in the late 1980s. At first it was just a handful of bears, but soon visitors began reporting dozens sighted a year, including females with cubs.

Doan-Crider’s pioneering research, published in 1996, helped confirm what Texas wildlife managers long suspected: Black bears were regaining a foothold in southern Texas, not from other U.S. states but from Mexico.

Mexico has a thriving bear population, thanks to its mountainous expanse and greater cultural acceptance of the animals, both of which also made the recolonization possible, says Doan-Crider, who is now an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University and executive director of a nonprofit called Animo Partnership in Natural Resources.

“Mexico’s bear habitat is so huge, and some local densities are the same as what you’d see in Alaska,” she says. “You can see 25 bears in one day.”

The bears, Doan-Crider and other researchers found, were crossing into Texas from Mexico through the Sierra del Carmen Mountains, which are only separated from the mountains in Big Bend by the Rio Grande River.

Big Bend, which was established in 1944 when there were no bears in the area, is a stunning and geologically diverse landscape of mountains, desert and river that stretches for more than 1,200 square miles along the border where West Texas dips into Mexico. It’s also good habitat for the returning bears, and it quickly became a safe haven for the animals.

Today, with the bears still reestablishing themselves, Texas lists the black bear as a threatened species.

This fledgling recovery could now be in jeopardy, however. Experts worry that any obstacle to the animals’ movement, such as President Trump’s proposed border wall, would set back hard-fought efforts to rebuild the population — especially with climate change intensifying the episodes of drought and wildfire that serve as key drivers for bears expanding beyond their usual range.

“The ability for wildlife to move across that border is so important,” says Patricia Moody Harveson, a research scientist at Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University. “We would not have black bears in Texas anymore if it wasn’t for that transboundary movement across that border.”

It’s not clear whether the Trump administration plans to construct the border wall through Big Bend, although it continues pressing forward with plans to build the wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and a 100-acre butterfly refuge.

The National Park Service declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

A volunteer ranger at the park, who did not want to be identified, told The Revelator that talk of the wall is, “all buttoned up.” But he said it “goes against everything the park stands for” and wondered how a wall could be built when heavy machinery is banned from the park, even for the removal of old telephone poles.

Bears, of course, are only one of many species, from reptiles and amphibians to bighorn sheep, which would be affected by the proposed wall. Beyond Texas, conservationists recently claimed that building the wall would be “game over” for recovering jaguar and ocelot populations in Arizona.

Jonah Evans, state mammalogist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, agrees with Harveson that, “when it comes to bears, being able to travel across large areas is important to recover their populations and thrive in a landscape as challenging as West Texas.”

Evans can’t say how big the bear population is in the state, but he says they’ve mapped breeding populations in just three of Texas’ 254 counties.

“Right now, we have very few,” he adds. “It’s a pretty isolated population.”

Bears are tough to count, because they cover huge distances and are expensive to catch and monitor. Texas Parks therefore relies on data from trail cameras and from voluntary reports of bear sightings by ranchers, such as at deer feeders.

Based on those reports, Evans says Big Bend National Park is “clearly one of the core breeding populations that we have.”

He adds, “If you don’t have breeding, you don’t have bears.”

Climate Change and Cross-Border Movement

Extreme weather events appear to be a key driver for bears crossing the border, according to Doan-Crider’s research.

“We’re now looking at how drought and events like wildfires are a driving mechanism for expanding a bear population,” says Doan-Crider. “Normally females might not leave their home range, but once those droughts hit, once wildfires come in, they will cover huge distances to find some habitat.”

Her research correlates maps of food sources like oak trees (acorns) and prickly pear with bear movements, documenting that female bears will travel twice as far as in times of drought, or what she calls the “threshold of misery.”

Black bears can have enormous ranges during these periods, as great as about 380 square miles, she says.

This can drive bears from Mexico into the United States or force them to journey in the opposite direction. Other researchers, including Dave Onorato and Raymond Skiles, the recently retired wildlife biologist for Big Bend, have also documented these border crossings during drought. At one point in the early 2000s, when food was scarce in Big Bend, all the bears left for Mexico and then returned a year a half later. Similarly, Harveson noted that two bears the Borderlands Research Institute was radio-tracking crossed over into Mexico during the severe 2012 drought.

Invisible Wall

As “horrified” as she is by the proposed border wall, Doan-Crider says she’s more concerned about what she calls the “invisible wall,” or the lack of social acceptance and lack of preparation bears hit when they cross into Texas.

Most wildlife managers and researchers are focused on Big Bend, but Doan-Crider says she thinks bears are also crossing into Texas farther east, from the mountains just south of Laredo, where Mexican land cooperatives are protecting bears. They don’t stand a chance on the U.S. side, she says, because of the likelihood that they’ll come into contact with humans who aren’t used to living with bears, or with landowners who have deer-hunting operations.

Meanwhile, Harveson says the breeding population at Big Bend appears to be spreading into the Davis Mountains, about 150 miles to the north. That could also put them at risk.

“As bears move into areas they haven’t been in for more than 50 years, we look for that potential for human-bear conflict,” she says. The Borderlands Research Institute plans to study the corridors that bears are using to traverse this distance, as well as their use of habitat and movements within the Davis Mountains. “We’d like to help make the adjustment easier.”

Doan-Crider agrees that more steps need to be taken to protect the black bears that have returned to their former range.

“If Texas wants to do something about bears, they should be putting a lot of money into educating the public,” she stresses.

Doan-Crider says the question of the wall, and the bigger question of bear recovery, is more about, “Do you want to have bears in Texas?”

If the answer is yes, then keeping the border open — especially at Big Bend — is vital.

Two brothers went hunting in Dzilam, one gets shot in the chest in “hunting accident”


A sad ending had a hunting trip for a couple of brothers in the forest near Dzilam Bravo, after one of them got shot to death in what is apparently a “hunting accident”.

On Saturday Jan. 19, around 22:00 hours, brothers Arturo and Víctor C. C. went hunting north of the town, but by Arturo was accidentally shot in the chest and he died right on the spot.

His brother Víctor, in his first statement, said that his brother and him were hunting but they got separated, after a few hours in the mountain he heard a shot and the screams of his brother so he ran to the place.

When he arrived, he saw his brother Arturo who managed to say to him “I was shot” before he fell unconscious, so he immediately informed the municipal authorities who arrived with SSP paramedics, but could not do anything, because Arturo no longer showed vital signs.

Hours later, ministerial police officers arrived on site, to collect data of the incident and to proceed with the lifting of the body.

Meanwhile, Victor was arrested as the main suspect in the death of his brother, in what could be an imprudence homicide. Local authorities already open the corresponding file in the municipality of Motul.

TYT Newsroom with information from