S/V CORINE ANCHORED MISSION BAY
Domingo 27 de Abril de 2003
What's with the proposed Escalera Nautica on the Baja California Peninsula and mainland Mexico? Read
below for most of your questions and some of your answers regarding the "Nautical Steps" ( "Nautical
Ladder", "Nautical Route".)
Press Releases -
Press Release 1:
From the SAN DIEGO METROPOLITAN
Day-Tripping Baja By Boat
The Mexican government is promoting the development of a chain of 22 marinas around Baja California Get
ready to hear quite a bit about Baja Californiaâ€™s Escalera Nautica over the next few years. Literally
translated it means â€œNautical Ladder,â€� but a better description is â€œNautical Route.â€� In days of
old, Fathers Junipero Serra and Eusebio Kino traveled throughout the Baja California peninsula and present-
day California establishing missions. Well, the Escalera is something similar, except that instead of inland
religious missions, it will be marinas along the Pacific and Sea of Cortes coasts, followed by the same along
the Sonora and Sinaloa mainland states with Sea of Cortes coastlines.
The original missions were built at distances of one dayâ€™s travel by horse or cart. Similarly, the Escaleraâ
€™s marinas will be at one dayâ€™s travel by boat â€” about 120 nautical miles apart.
The plan calls for 22 full-service marinas, 10 of them new. Of the 12 existing, seven will be improved and
five are judged as already adequate. The 10 new marinas will be located on sites with natural shelter, or
bays, a feature the peninsula has in abundance. Five of these are to be in Baja California, three in Baja
California Sur, and one each in Sonora and Sinaloa.
Additionally, the plan calls for an 84-mile highway route for towing boats from one side of the peninsula to
the other. This feature will allow boat travelers quick access to either body of water for those without time
or interest in sailing around the southernmost tip of Baja California Sur. Further, the plan calls for improving
the road between Mexicali and San Felipe to allow bigger-boat towing rigs crossborder access to the Sea of
The plan also calls for improvements in 10 existing airports and 10 airstrips to make it easier for tourists to
get to the chain of marinas. In this manner, Mexico hopes it will attract year-round mooring and rental
In support of the project, John McCarthy, the director of Mexicoâ€™s Fonatur (national fund for the
promotion of tourism) anticipates that once completed, no less than 52,000 American boat owners will set
sail to those destinations and a good number will permanently moor in the various marinas. Moreover he
estimates that 76,400 boats will be cruising Baja coastlines by 2010 and that by 2014 there will be 5.4
million nautical tourists. (Today there are 1.65 million registered boats in the Southwestern United States.)
The Mexican government has designated Escalera Nautica as the anchor tourist project during the Fox
administration. Of course, it was presented during the last two months of the Zedillo administration, so Fox
But it really goes farther back than either Fox or Zedillo. It was in the early 1970s when this project was
envisioned, studies performed and the peninsula mapped to locate placement of the marinas now being
promoted. A consortium of multinational United States companies, which included the likes of Atlantic
Richfield (now ARCO), created a mega-fund known as ADELA, at the urging of then U.S. Sen. Jacob
Javits of New York.
ADELA had several projects, among them a strategic alliance with Crocker land and other companies to
develop Baja California, which was to include marinas and infrastructure projects such as desalination
plants. By 1973, the Baja California peninsula study and mapping was completed, and a grand presentation
was scheduled at Los Pinos when the Mexican White House was occupied by President Luis Echeverria
Alvarez. Echeverria was a very erratic person and though well apprised of the project, announced on the
day of the presentation that â€œMexico is not for saleâ€� and walked out of the room. So the plans have
lingered somewhere gathering dust until recently.
If Mexico can pull off the project, it will transform the Baja Californias into one huge tourist destination
peninsula. Such a project by necessity would include hotels and golf courses along with every conceivable
tourist-related amenity imaginable.
Since the Mexican government has decided to spend about $222 million on the project during the next six
years, the several billion dollars needed for hotels, golf courses, et al., will have to come from private
sources. And most of it will have to come from foreign sources.
This is where the opposition comes in â€” dubbing the entire projectâ€™s hidden purpose as one big land
speculation promotion, because it clashes with the conservation objectives of the Biosphere Reserve of the
Gulf Islands, the Loreto Bay National Park, the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve and the Upper Gulf of California
Biosphere Reserve. Opponents claim that from an environmental point of view the project is totally
incompatible with the Sustainable Development Program of the Sea of Cortes.
As of yet, Fonatur has not submitted an environmental impact assessment for the Escalera Nautica, as is
mandated by Mexican law. But McCarthy reports that â€œthe project is not only sustainable from an
environmental point of view, but also in terms of profits, and it will improve the socioeconomic situation of
the communities and local populations, which provides service in the tourist centers, as a way of fighting
The sides are lining up â€” environmentalist and status quo supporters on one side, federal and state officials
with private sector investment promoters and land owners on the other. It is certainly going to get
Patrick Osio Jr. can be reached through San Diego Metropolitan or by e-mail at email@example.com.
STATE of BAJA CALIFORNIA
nterview with Mr. Juan B. Tintos Funcke, Tourism Secretary of the State of Baja California
Mr. Tintos Funcke, letâ€™s take a look back, what would you consider were the main achievements of
your dependency in the past ?
As of last Friday, Iâ€™ve been the head of this office for eight years now: the last three years of the past
State administration with former Governor Ernesto Rufo; the three years that Governor Hector Teheran,
who passed away, headed the State government; and now with the present Governor Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez
Alcocer. Thereâ€™s been a lot of work achieved but basically I would sum it up in a more professional way
of doing tourism, of promoting it and promoting an integral development of tourism, recognizing tourism in
Baja California for its multiple facets, starting off with a traditional one which is to promote what we already
have. Weâ€™ve implemented new campaigns, new procedures, and new strategies that have never been
done before in the State. Weâ€™re proud to say that the Federal Secretary of Tourism or other state
governments in the country has taken many of them as an example on a national basis. Weâ€™ve
reactivated a state hotel room tax which in only three years has given us five times more resources for the
promotion of our attractions and activities. Weâ€™ve been able to increase the number of events from 100
to 250 events per year. We are the state in Mexico that has the largest calendar of tourism events in the
country, many of them project us worldwide such as the off-road races, the Baja 1000, the Baja 500, the
Rosarito-Ensenada bike ride (the fourth largest in the world), regattas, different expos, sea-food expos. That
is, different events that generate for us millions of dollars in revenue for the cities that play host for these
events and at the same time project our name and our image to many media sources throughout the world.
Weâ€™ve added as a generator of tourism for our State the film industry since the establishment of the 20th
Century Fox Studios here in Rosarito beach where Titanic was filmed and six other motion pictures. This
has generated for us a new activity that in just three year has brought over 75 production of different types:
from TV documentaries, full-length movies, TV series, TV commercials, musical videos, commercials from
Europe, Canada, the USA, Mexico. And all of these activities also represent important revenue: the
contracting and use of different types of services in our community. Weâ€™ve attracted investments we
want here in our State so that we have more family-oriented tourism and at the same time retain our tourist
for longer periods which will translate into more revenue for our tourism economy. Besides the 20th CFS,
thereâ€™s an entertainment center called Foxploration built next to the studios by 20th CF. Itâ€™s around
an 8 million dollar investment, probably more, that will give a unique behind-the scenes look at film making
but in an entertaining way for all the family, a new 42 million dollar investment cruise-ship terminal in
Ensenada that will consolidate Ensenada as the number-two cruise-ship port in Mexico, only after Cozumel.
In general, golf courses, marinas, infrastructure that again can help us attract more visitors and stay longer
but with a better quality tourism. Weâ€™ve also initiated different programs, thatâ€™s why I mentioned a
more professional way of doing tourism: studies, master development plans, plans for our main tourism
regions which have also been taken as a model on a national basis so that we can give incoming investors
more certainty on aspects such as the use of land, areas that must be preserved and cannot be developed,
we produced different planning efforts for eco-tourism developments so that now, anybody who comes to
Baja California to invest can be certain that where they are building theyâ€™ll be provided enough
information from our government regarding the profile of visitors, regarding financial aspects for the type of
investment they want to do. To give you an example, we did this five years ago in a small port we have on
the Sea of CortÃ©s called San Felipe and a lot of people didnâ€™t understand why we were investing all
these resources and efforts in defining how we want San Felipe to grow, what goes where, what cannot be
touched. And that program was the key element for the Federal Government this year to declare San Felipe
a priority tourism zone of Mexico. That helped us to attract a group that is projecting to start in January the
construction of two golf courses, hotels, marina and condominiums in San Felipe. But again, one of the
main things that make Baja California attractive or different in the world is its natural beauty. Since we took
office here, we have been very careful in not sacrificing that natural beauty and those natural resources in
order to have more tourism services or infrastructure. Weâ€™ve focused on the so-called sustainable
development, basically how our natural resources can coexist with some type of development, whether itâ
€™s eco-tourism, whether itâ€™s low-impact investment but generating the economic benefits without
necessarily impacting the environment. Another thing weâ€™ve been recognized for on a national level is
our training courses and what is called our cultural tourism program and this is going into elementary
schools, high-schools, universities and to different organizations in our State to generate more awareness on
what tourism is: why it is important for Baja California, how a Baja Californian can be a tourist and why we
should be very good host to our visitor. And we produce various materials that have been distributed to the
schools such as this calendar with the 12 paintings of over 500 that children drew last year to promote this
calendar; this is how kids see our State and its attractions. This calendar is just an example, we have a
booklet weâ€™ve been giving out in the schools for the last 5 years and what weâ€™ve achieved is that in
BC we believe that tourism is more recognized as a priority. Weâ€™ve made tourism a popular element.
Do you feel that the perception of BCâ€™s image as a maquiladora state to a tourism state has already
changed or are there still efforts to be undertaken?
No, maquiladora is one of the most important contributors to the growth of tourism in BC because in the
process of making tourism a more recognizable concept, a more understandable concept by the community
and in acknowledging tourism is not an elite thing, that you can be a tourist for many reasons and you donâ
€™t need a lot of money or to be a foreigner to be a tourist. What we have taken to the community is the
concept that anyone can be a tourist with a lot of resources and with access to a certain level of services or
you can be a low-income tourist but at the same time enjoy your free time in a constructive way. In this
process we have thanked our Secretary of Economic Development because as long as they attract more
maquiladoras to BC, this generates a type of tourist which is business-oriented. To give you an example,
Mexicali, the State Capital has had a maquiladora boom over the past five years and you can see it reflected
in its number of hotels, restaurants, car-rentals, cell-phones, all the services a business-oriented tourist may
need. So, this is what we have brought forth to government officials, to the State Congress, to the people
that conform the tourism sector of BC, and weâ€™ve told them maquiladoras and tourism go hand in hand,
itâ€™s a type of tourism. In the same way we receive tourists for medical reasons, we receive tourists
because of maquiladoras, tourists that come to because of those 250 events, tourists that come to the film
industry, for religious reasons, for many different reasons. We are probably the Mexican State that receives
tourism for the most varied reasons. We have the number-one spa in the world located in Rancho la Puerta,
Tecate, according to Travel Leisure. We have one of the most modern spas in the world, which is the Sano
VIP clinic south of Rosarito Beach, which receives tourists that stay for two weeks or maybe a month.
Rancho la Puerta is a favorite hide out for Hollywood stars, business moguls, CEO, etc. I think creating a
varied vision of tourism is one of the most important achievements weâ€™ve had. One last thing that weâ
€™ve generated as of last year is a social tourism program where we are reaching 800,000 Baja Californians
who work in the maquiladoras, who work in the unions, who belong to small business, who say "Wait a
minute, now I understand the booklet my son received in high-school. Now I understand that there are a lot
of things to see and do in BC, but I still donâ€™t have the resources." So weâ€™ve generated a unique
social tourism program because it combines three basic elements: we are promoting all the ranches and
camp grounds and what we call "balnearios" that have swimming pools where you can have a barbecue,
some where you can camp over night; weâ€™ve gone with training courses for the owners of these
establishments; we are financing the ones that already exist to have better facilities and the ones that have a
property were a beautiful stream passes by and thereâ€™s a road nearby and have a potential are being
financed to develop the area as a ranch or as a camp site. That is something that Governor Gonzalez
Alcocer has liked very much because this way, in our universal focus of tourism we are contributing to
better integrating the families of BC giving them access to information for recreation through the hand-out
we distribute in different sectors. In this way all the family can spend their time growing as a family.
Tourism in Mexico has produced a US$1.7 billion surplus, how does the State of California stand in
percentage terms from this figure?
It is estimated that the northern border of Mexico generates 30% of what Mexico has from tourism
expenditure. I think last year tourists spent $8.9 billion dollars in Mexico. Out of that 30% percent, BC
generates 51.4%. Tourism in BC means about 1.3 billion dollars coming in per year to our economy. That is
according to Banco de MÃ©xico. That means tourists that are coming into our border for hours as
excursionists spend around 30-35 dollars and tourists that come for one or two nights are spending from 49
to 52 dollars. We are considered among the five most important tourism states in the country. We have a
very unique and privileged geographical location, which can work both ways because you can become
compliant because you are so near to the main provider of tourists, the State of California. Thatâ€™s
something we battle day in and day out. Weâ€™ve just had a very good Labor Day weekend, around
200,000 people came in for some hours or for one or two nights.
Isnâ€™t this a much to short time, wouldnâ€™t you agree that a sustainable tourism has to imply a longer
We wished we had an average of people that stayed more. Last year we had 28Â½million foreigner border
crossings entering BC. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™ve gone to the Federal Government and told them "Yes, youâ
€™ve got CancÃºn. Yes, youâ€™ve got Los Cabos, Ixtapa and Acapulco, but pay more attention to the
northern border because we have millions of people coming in." But they come and often they donâ€™t stay
enough and the great majority are excursionist and donâ€™t spend the night. Why? Because of all of these
reasons: we need a better infrastructure in the border so there wonâ€™t be a three-hour wait; we need
better urban development programs for the border cities in order to determine the tourism regions in each
cities and create what weâ€™ve called the "yellow brick road" for tourism. This is something weâ€™ve
discussed in the 3 meetings weâ€™ve had with Foxâ€™s group regarding tourism. We presented a position
to the incoming Federal Government saying "We canâ€™t continue to be such an important region and not
receive the same attention as other traditional sights. If you pay more attention to these topics in the border,
we are sure that in the mid-term we can convert a lot of those excursionists of hours into three-night tourist
which would translate into more income for the country." That has been our fight. We believe weâ€™ve
achieved a lot in the past six years with this Federal Government but now we are very exited (BC has a PAN
government), that we have a PAN president coming in and an ex-governor of Guanajuato where he
promoted very interesting tourism programs and weâ€™ve exchanged a lot of information. Our
expectations are very high. More recognition of the northern border means recognition to BC, because weâ
€™re the number-one state in the border but we need that same focus. We need the future Federal
Government to recognize tourism as a priority, as an intrinsical concept, we need better infrastructure, more
private investment, etc. If we achieve that, thereâ€™s no stopping us because if you see the northern
border, we are the great tourist provider for Mexico because of our location. How much of your budget
would be spent in the promotion of BC?
0.04 percent of the State budget is dedicated to tourism. That includes rents, salaries, promotional
resources, and research resources. One of the things Iâ€™m most proud of is that every year Iâ€™ve
increased the budget for our office, not necessarily because of inflation. At a national level, the budget is
somewhere in the neighborhood. In cost-benefit, you see an industry that for our state generates 1.3 billion
dollars and weâ€™re only dedicating that portion to tourism, something must be wrong. Thatâ€™s been our
fight. Iâ€™m the first Tourism Secretary in Mexicoâ€™s history that studied tourism. I started my
administration at the age of 33 and a lot of people criticized my radical ideas. Tourism was seen as a very
informal activity, a sure activity because of the great neighborhood we have. But our fight in Baja California
caught on the rest of Mexico. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re happy to see more recognition, but we need it to
grow in the next government with examples such as declaring the northern border a priority zone, not
abandoning the traditional locations but creating new Cancunâ€™s in the northern border. If we were to
bring investment groups to the border, letâ€™s take the County of San Diego (that has over 100 golf
courses, we have 6 as a state), just imagine the potential. Thereâ€™s 1.6 million yachts in the West Coast
of the US and in Baja we have 2 marines. That just gives you an example of the raw material we have. If we
were to get more attention, more resources, more coordinated efforts (we have the Escalera Nautica project
with Fonatur, we need to speed it up!) weâ€™d do great things with the State. If you can imagine bringing
people from the West Coast in their yachts, itâ€™s a high-profile tourist that will later want to fly in. Those
are the types of potentials we have as a State, we have over 1,000 miles of shoreline, and we have to exploit
that with sustained development (weâ€™d be one of the top 15 countries in the world if we were a country).
What is the origin of the tourists visiting Baja California?
Most present tourists are from the US. 90 percent come from California. 85% of our tourists are from the
USA. There is a growing Arizona, Nevada and Colorado market. From other areas: Canada, Japan, and
Europe. European tourists are mainly oriented towards eco-tourism, the whole peninsula is a giant eco-
tourism destination. Eco-tourism looks for the authentic things that make your destination different. We
have cave paintings, we have missions, the California gray whale, unique flora and fauna, a combination of
habitats. I would describe BC as a place with variety: cosmopolitan cities with first-rate services, you can be
surfing in Ensenada in the Pacific in the morning, take a beautiful three-hour ride here and be kayaking in the
Sea of CortÃ©s which is considered a giant aquarium, stay and go to the observatory 11000 feet up thatâ
€™s surrounded by pine trees and a beautiful lake and where it snows in winter and then come down to the
desert that meets with the ocean.
How do you foresee the development towards a greater share of Asian tourism in BC?
Itâ€™s been a gradual situation. For example any tourist worker has as a primary market California, the US,
Canada, Asia and Europe. One of the things we lack are more international flights. When I was in Asia last
year, we offered the alternative of Tokyo-LA and then from LA to take a cruise to Ensenada and then
maybe drive back to LA. There are only two flights from LA to Tijuana. Itâ€™s growing gradually but the
other markets arenâ€™t as strong as the US market. The southern states, specifically California, continue to
be the main providers of tourists for the main destinations here. The ones that go further south and go
trough the peninsula tend to be European. The Japanese are still not so confident about taking that type of a
vacation. According to statistics, the typical Japanese traveler is a woman between 21 and 25 years old,
thereâ€™s a trend of getting married in very unique places. We think we have material to interest them but it
has to be very gradual because our main goal is to consolidate our US market, we have a growing market
from Las Vegas, Arizona (that has the largest number of boats but has no beaches). The shore-less Arizona
yacht owners could come down through Mexicali to San Felipe. The Escalera Nautica is actually
contemplating the construction of transportation for yachts from one side of the peninsula to the other.
Fortunately for us, weâ€™re the first step in the ladder. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re hoping that the Federal
Government will continue with Fonatur and speed things up, eliminating the procedures and bureaucratic
What are going to be your primary goals for the next months?
I have only 14 months left in office. My immediate goal is to leave the Escalera Nautica in such an
advantaged process that hopefully next year weâ€™ll have the ground breaking by the Grossman Group
from Santa Rosalita to BahÃa Los Angeles to create that canal, to leave San Felipe with the ground breaking
of the golf course marina hotels and condominiums. We own the international airport in San Felipe, to leave
it as part of the send-off of San Felipe in becoming an important destination, it was declared a priority zone
by the Federal government. To leave the corridor between Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada consolidated. For
Tijuana to take the definitive steps to build a multi-purpose center for expos, conventions, seminars and
even large public events. Promote the Fox studios, and have more development around it. Ensenada as the
number-two port for cruise ships in Mexico and in three years receive half a million passengers per ride.
Once itâ€™s finished, it will be the port with the best technology in Mexico. And leave the southern parts of
the state with a certain start-off byway of the Escalera Nautica.
Thank you very much.
Press Release 3:
ASSAULT ON THE SEA OF CORTEZ
Reforma, Mexico City
March 4, 2001
WAR ON NATURE IN LA PAZ
By Homero Aridjis
On February 21st I accompanied President Vicente Fox on a working trip to Baja California Sur. The trip
roused mixed feelings in me: on the one hand I was witness to the man from Guanajuato's charisma, but on
the other hand I found out about the Nautical Route, the first ecocidal project to be undertaken by the Fox
government. Or is it the last of former president Ernesto Zedillo's? Work on the project is said to have
begun in October 2000 (two months before Fox took office).
The stated objective of the so-called Nautical Route is to open up the Sea of Cortes --- known to many,
including its predators, as the aquarium of the world --- to the American tourist market. In brief, to develop
it for the private boat owners identified by Fonatur (National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism) as
The project will set up a network of 22 tourism ports: ten new ports to be built at Cabo Colnett, Puerto
Canoa, San Luis Gonzaga, Santa Rosalillita and Bahia de los Angeles, in the state of Baja California, Bahia de
Tortuga, Punta Abreojos and San Juanico, in Baja California Sur, Bahia Kino, in Sonora, and Altata, in
Sinaloa; enlargement of seven ports in San Carlos and San Felipe, in Baja California, Loreto, Mulege and
Santa Rosalia, in Baja California Sur, Puerto Peñ¡³£o, in Sonora, and Topolobampo, in Sinaloa; incorporation
of five ports at Ensenada, in Baja California, San Lucas and Laz Paz, in Baja California Sur, Guaymas, in
Sonora, and Mazatlan, in Sinaloa.
According to John McCarthy, the director of Fonatur and promotor of the preposterous project --- and big
business ---, the Nautical Route will include four roads to bring in boat trailers, twenty airports and airfields,
and an 80-mile overland road linking Santa Rosalillita, on the Pacific Ocean, with Bahia de los Angeles, in the
Sea of Cortes, in order to spare tourists from the American Southwest the trouble of "sailing around the
southern tip of Baja California." (quotes are from the glossy brochure, Fonatur's February 21 press release
and the project's executive summary).
Nevertheless, word has it that the hidden purpose of the project is to promote intensive land speculation
throughout the area covered by the Nautical Route. Business will be done through a system of franchises.
Fonatur anticipates that if Mexico creates "the nautical, highway and airport infrastructure," the American
owners of 52,000 boats will sail them to Mexico or park them in the Sea of Cortes. But McCarthy is
ambitious, and he predicts that by 2010, 76,400 boats will invade us (from among the 1,650,000 currently
registered in the southwestern United States), and that by 2014 there will 5,400,000 "nautical tourists" using
the Sea of Cortes annually. All this, in exchange for destroying marine and coastal ecosystems on either side
of the peninsula.
President Fox witnessed the signing of the agreement by the federal government and the state governments
of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa in the presence of the ministers of Tourism
(SECTUR), Communications and Transport (SCT), Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and
the Navy (MARINA), whose instructions are to "incorporate the Nautical Route as a Priority Project in their
programs." Let us hope that the Ministry of the Environment --- charged with "Issuing the authorizations,
permits and concessions within its competence"--- does not forget to apply environmental laws and to
enforce compliance with the decrees which established various biosphere reserves in the area, as well as
controlling harmful fishing practices and protecting the islands in the Sea of Cortes.
According to the federal government, McCarthy will "head development of the Nautical Route and
coordinate activities with the dependencies and bodies of the federal administration and with the participating
states." The Ministry of Finance assigned Fonatur a budget of 2 billion 211 million pesos (approximately
$222 million dollars) for this project for the 2001-2006 period. Was this on Zedillo's orders?
According to McCarthy, "the project is not only sustainable from an environmental point of view, but also in
terms of profits, and it will improve the socioeconomic situation of the communities and local populations
which provide services in the tourist centers, as a way of fighting poverty (sic)." According to an expert in
coastal biodiversity, Fonatur's market analysis is superficial and completely wrong. In Oceanside and Chula
Vista, in San Diego Country, California, marina projects have failed to provide expected development.
Marinas on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula will need to be dredged continuously, as is the case for
marinas at Oceanside and Santa Barbara. Also, Fonatur's giant failure at Loreto shows that there is no
reason to believe it can be successful in a project of this magnitude.
Because it clashes with the conservation objectives of the Biosphere Reserve of the Gulf Islands (Islas del
Golfo), the Loreto Bay National Park, the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve and the Upper Golf of California
Biosphere Reserve, from an environmental point of view the project is totally incompatible with the
Sustainable Development Program of the Sea of Cortes. When did Fonatur submit an Environmental Impact
Assessment for the Nautical Route? Does McCarthy know that Mexico has environmental laws and that his
Route will have negative impacts on several biosphere reserves?
Has the Fox dream of development engendered its first monster in the Nautical Route? Or is this ex-
President Zedillo's final attack on Nature? I hope that a fundamental respect for Mexico's environmental
laws will bring Fox to think twice about this project before he goes down in history ---less than 100 days
into his term of office --- as the predator of the aquarium of the world. Mr. President, wouldn't it be better
to take the initiative and as your first environmental act, turn the entire Sea of Cortes into a biosphere
reserve, protecting the aquarium of the world with all its fantastic biodiversity?
In La Paz the descendants of former president Abelardo Rodriguez have declared themselves to be the
owners of Isla San Jose (off the coast roughly halfway between La Paz y Loreto, in the Sea of Cortes) and
with the blessing of Baja California governor Leonel Cota they have submitted a grandiose Master
Development Plan. Their project calls for building a tourist marina, a pier for cruise ships and 11 theme
parks which the Rodriguez Calderon brothers have grouped together under the comical heading
"Infrastructure for the Interpretation of Nature." Their only problem is that according to the National
Commission for Protected Natural Areas, the project violates the decree which established the Gulf of
California Islands Area for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, and which prohibits any modification of the
environment or activities which are detrimental to the flora and fauna, for which reasons the project should
not be permitted. The owners have not submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment.
During the trip, I made a point of asking the president to free the seven bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops
Truncatus) which were captured in Bahia Magdalena thanks to permits given by unethical environmental and
municipal officials and transported by truck in conditions of extreme cruelty to the pens at the Hotel La
Concha Beach Resort by the owners of Fins: Dolphin Learning Center. One dolphin, Luna, died on February
3rd, and the other seven dolphins are at risk.
The evening of February 21st I went with the Minister of SEMARNAT to see the pen holding the captive
dolphins. A prominent marine biologist has already declared that this is the worst such facility she has ever
seen, which is saying a lot in a country full of bad dolphinariums.
It is urgent that the Hotel La Concha pen be shut down and that the dolphins be returned to Bahia
Magdalena, and for SEMARNAT to order an inspection program of dolphinariums throughout Mexico, in La
Paz, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, Mexico City, Veracruz, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
Mr. Lichtinger, this is a formal request on behalf of the dolphins.
INFORMATION NOT INCLUDED IN ARTICLE DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS:
The 22 ports will be at a maximum distance of 120 nautical miles from each other.
Several of the ports are located within or adjacent to protected areas: Loreto (Parque Nacional Bahia de
Loreto); San Felipe (Alto Golfo Biosphere Reserve); Puerto PeÃ±asco (Alto Golfo Biosphere Reserve);
Puerto San Carlos is adjacent to a gray whale calving grounds.
Santa Rosalillita has heavy surf, but no electricity or water.
The Bahia de los Angeles port would be developed in a fragile wetland and adjacent to the fragile Islas del
Golfo Biosphere Reserve.
Punta Abreojos is within the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, and the project would be located within the
lucrative lobster and abalone fishing grounds of the Punta Abreojos Cooperative. This is the same site where
Mitsubishi and the Mexican government planned to build a pier for the San Ignacio saltworks project which
was canceled in March 2000. The local people are against having a paved road, as they feel it would bring in
poachers and criminals. They would not benefit from the Nautical Route.
San Juanico's port would be located in the region of heavy summer surf, destroying the existing economic
benefits from surfers.
Small-scale, low-impact ecotourism projects are flourishing throughout the peninsula, providing local
populations with employment and income. For example, at San Ignacio Lagoon many local people make
their living from whale watching.
THE GROUP OF 100 ASKS YOU TO WRITE PRESIDENT FOX ASKING HIM TO CANCEL THE
NAUTICAL ROUTE/ESCALERA NAUTICA PROJECT, STATING YOUR OBJECTIONS AND
RECOMMENDING THAT THE SEA OF CORTES BECOME A BIOSPHERE RESERVE.
PRESIDENTE VICENTE FOX
RESIDENCIA OFICIAL DE LOS PINOS
COL. SAN MIGUEL CHAPULTEPEC
11850 MEXICO D.F.
EMAIL : firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEASE SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO
DR. VICTOR LICHTINGER
SECRETARIA DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE Y RECURSOS NATURALES (SEMARNAT)
PERIFERICO SUR 4209
COL. JARDINES DE LA MONTAÃ‘A
14210 MEXICO D.F. MEXICO
Press Release 4:
Baja Brainstorm: Build Ports for Those Yachts Mexican officials hope to increase the number of visiting
boats by creating a long network of stops. Environmentalists worry about delicate ecosystem.
By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS, Times Travel Writer
Los Angeles Times Sunday 17 June 2001
Some people look at the Gulf of California and see a rare retreat for marine life and the occasional fishing
boat or pleasure vessel. But when Mexican President Vicente Fox and his tourism advisors look at the same
desert-fringed patch of salt water between Baja California and mainland Mexico, they see room for 76,400
yachts a year. That's nearly 10 times the estimated current traffic. Such an influx of upscale visitors,
officials say, could be a boon for tourism and could mean a boost in jobs and quality of life for Baja, Sonora
and Sinaloa residents who have endured decades of bad roads and ragtag government services. But
environmental groups are worried that the same influx could undermine the rare ecology and stark natural
beauty that make the peninsula unique. (They worry less about mainland Mexico, where the project calls
mostly for upgrades of existing facilities, rather than new coastal construction.) They have asked for more
details, but so far, those remain in short supply. The " Escalera Nautica " ("nautical route" is the Mexican
government's translation) plan is to build a network of 22 ports in the next decade that form a route around
Baja California's perimeter and along the mainland rim of the Gulf of California (better known in Mexico as
the Sea of Cortes), stretching as far south as Mazatlan. With ports spaced about 120 nautical miles apart
(that's about 138 miles on land), the network is intended to act as a sort of secular seafarers' version of the
California mission system, easing exploration (and relaxation) for boaters. They will add docking, fueling,
provisioning and radio communication facilities and in some cases restaurants and lodging. Tourism officials
also hope for an increase in land-based visitors once those tourists realize that related road improvements
will mean easier access to tourist attractions. FONATUR, the Mexican government's main tourism
development agency, began meeting with state officials last year and announced Fox's backing for the
project in February. (Similar plans had been proposed in 1976 and the mid-'90s but were never executed.)
The first key piece of the project is the creation of a transpeninsular "dry canal," or "land bridge," about
halfway down the peninsula to give boaters a 70-mile shortcut between the Gulf of California and the
Pacific. The path now includes miles of rough rural road and is impractical for boat transport. Once
completed, the path is intended to accommodate transport of boats as long as 55 feet. "We want to start
building in July," said Juan Tintos Funcke, tourism secretary for the state of Baja California. If federal
officials approve a request for $16.5 million, the road could be done by March, Tintos said. Under the plan,
semitrucks will shuttle vessels between the sea and the ocean, using new or expanded facilities (including
marina slips) at Santa Rosalillita on the Pacific side and the Bahia de los Angeles on the Gulf of California
side. Currently, most boaters must sail all the way down the 820-mile-long peninsula, then loop around Cabo
San Lucas to reach the Gulf of California. Between Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas there are virtually no
marine services. A shortcut with a port network is "a great idea," said Pat Rains, coauthor of the "Mexico
Boating Guide." "A lot of people have wished that this could happen." But Rains also noted that Mexican
officials have raised, then shelved, other versions of this concept. The plan counts heavily on private
investors, Tintos said, and requires cooperation among federal officials, four Mexican states and more than
a dozen municipalities. He said many site selections are still tentative, depending on environmental review,
and acknowledged that the goal of 76,400 boats a year is optimistic. And Tintos noted that the initial
projection of $222 million in FONATUR funding in the next five years is only an estimate. Apart from the
new and expanded port facilities, plans call for construction or expansion of 20 airports and airfields.
Already, Tintos said, his state has spent about $2.5 million, and the federal department of Communications
and Transportation has laid out about $7 million for early work on the Santa Rosalillita-Bahia de los Angeles
road and related projects. The potential effects on the sparsely populated peninsula have raised sharp
questioning from environmentalists. "Everywhere we go, Escalera Nautica is now the subject. But as far as
I can see, they are not very well coordinated," said Patricia Martinez Rios, administrative director of Pro
Esteros, an Ensenada-based wetlands protection group. "This is what concerns us--that they will start
building and destroying without ... listening to the experts." But Martinez Rios said: "We are aware of the
necessity of development for many communities. ... I think this is the best opportunity so far to really do
correct planning, to really understand what sustainable development means. But we don't want to give any
opinion before we know enough." She also would like the government to seek more citizen input. "The
people who live in those places have not been asked," she said. In some little towns, Martinez Rios said,
"they don't want to change their status from fishermen to ... servants of tourists." For his part, Tintos said
many of the residents of Santa Rosalillita and Bahia de Los Angeles (less than 1,500 combined, mostly
fishermen) see the project as a chance for economic betterment. He also said the success of the project
depends upon its ability to highlight and protect the area's natural and cultural resources. Government
officials, he said, are working on how to manage that. (And the process could get more complicated after
Oct. 31, when Tintos and the rest of Baja California Gov. Alejandro Gonzalez Alcocer's cabinet leave office
to make way for a newly elected state administration.) Five of the new project's 22 proposed ports are
already full-service facilities: Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Guaymas-San Carlos and Mazatlan. Seven
others would be expanded: San Carlos (the one in Baja California), San Felipe, Loreto, Mulege, Santa
Rosalia, Puerto Penasco and Topolobampo. New facilities would be built in 10 other locations: Cabo
Colonet, Puerto Canoa, San Luis Gonzaga, Santa Rosalillita and Bahia de los Angeles (all in Baja California);
Bahia de Tortuga, Punta Abreojos and San Juanico (all in Baja California Sur); Bahia Kino in Sonora and
Altata in Sinaloa. Locations for proposed airfields and airports are not yet certain, Tintos said. Christopher
Reynolds welcomes suggestions but cannot respond individually to letters and calls. Address comments to
Travel Insider, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or e-mail to chris.
email@example.com. Discussion Log
Press Release 5:
FROM THE LA TIMES -
Plan Aims to Boost Baja-area Boat Traffic By Christopher Reynolds Los Angeles Times June 24, 2001:
Some people look at the Gulf of California and see a rare retreat for marine life and the occasional fishing
boat or pleasure vessel. But when Mexican President Vicente Fox and his tourism advisers look at the same
desert-fringed patch of salt water between Baja California and mainland Mexico, they see room for 76,400
yachts a year.
That's nearly 10 times the estimated current traffic. Such an influx of upscale visitors, officials say, could
be a boon for tourism and could mean a boost in jobs and quality of life for Baja, Sonora and Sinaloa
residents, who have endured decades of bad roads and ragtag government services.
But environmental groups are worried that the same influx could undermine the rare ecology and stark
natural beauty that make the peninsula unique. (They worry less about mainland Mexico, where the project
calls mostly for upgrades of existing facilities, rather than new coastal construction.) They have asked for
more details, but so far, those remain in short supply.
The "Escalera Nautica" ("nautical route" is the Mexican government's translation) plan is to build in the next
decade a network of 22 ports that form a route around Baja California's perimeter and along the mainland
rim of the Gulf of California (better known in Mexico as the Sea of CortÃ©s), stretching as far south as
With ports spaced about 120 nautical miles apart (that's about 138 miles on land), the network is intended to
act as a sort of secular seafarers' version of the California mission system, easing exploration (and
enhancing relaxation) for boaters.
They will add docking, fueling, provisioning and radio communication facilities, and in some cases
restaurants and lodging.
Tourism officials also hope for an increase in land-based visitors once those tourists realize that related road
improvements will mean easier access to tourist attractions.
FONATUR, the Mexican government's main tourism development agency, began meeting with state
officials last year and announced Fox's backing for the project in February. (Similar plans had been
proposed in 1976 and the mid-'90s but never were executed.)
The first key piece of the project is the creation of a trans-peninsular "dry canal," or "land bridge," about
halfway down the peninsula to give boaters a 70-mile shortcut between the Gulf of California and the
Pacific. The path now includes miles of rough rural road and is impractical for boat transport.
Once completed, the path is intended to accommodate transport of boats as long as 55 feet.
"We want to start building in July," said Juan Tintos Funcke, tourism secretary for the state of Baja
California. If federal officials approve a request for $16.5 million, the road could be done by March, he said.
Under the plan, tractor-trailers will shuttle vessels between the sea and the ocean, using new or expanded
facilities (including marina slips) at Santa Rosalillita on the Pacific side and the BahÃa de los Angeles on the
Gulf of California side. Currently, most boaters must sail all the way down the 820-mile-long peninsula, then
loop around Cabo San Lucas to reach the Gulf of California. There are virtually no marine services between
Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas.
A shortcut with a port network is "a great idea," said Pat Rains, co-author of the Mexico Boating Guide. "A
lot of people have wished that this could happen."
But Rains also noted that Mexican officials have raised, then shelved, other versions of this concept.
The plan counts heavily on private investors, Tintos Funcke said, and requires cooperation among federal
officials, four Mexican states and more than a dozen municipalities. He said many site selections are still
tentative, depending on environmental review, and acknowledged that the goal of 76,400 boats a year is
optimistic. And Tintos Funcke noted that the initial projection of $222 million in FONATUR funding in the
next five years is an estimate.
Apart from the new and expanded port facilities, plans call for construction or expansion of 20 airports and
airfields. Tintos Funcke said his state has spent about $2.5 million, and the federal department of
Communications and Transportation has laid out about $7 million for early work on the Santa Rosalillita-
BahÃa de los Angeles road and related projects.
The potential effects on the sparsely populated peninsula have raised sharp questioning from
"Everywhere we go, Escalera Nautica is now the subject. But as far as I can see, they are not very well
coordinated," said Patricia Martinez Rios, administrative director of Pro Esteros, an Ensenada, Mexico-based
wetlands-protection group. "This is what concerns us - that they will start building and destroying without
listening to the experts."
But Martinez Rios said: "We are aware of the necessity of development for many communities. . . . But we
don't want to give any opinion before we know enough."
She also would like the government to seek more citizen input. "The people who live in those places have
not been asked," she said.
For his part, Tintos Funcke said many of the residents of Santa Rosalillita and BahÃa de Los Angeles
(fewer than 1,500 combined, mostly fishermen) see the project as a chance for economic betterment. He
also said the success of the project depends upon its ability to highlight and protect the area's natural and
Government officials, he said, are working on how to manage that. (And the process could get more
complicated after Oct. 31, when Tintos Funcke and the rest of Baja California Gov. Alejandro Gonzalez
Alcocer's cabinet leave office to make way for a newly elected state administration.)
Five of the new project's 22 proposed ports are already full-service facilities: Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La
Paz, Guaymas-San Carlos and MazatlÃ¡n. Seven others would be expanded: San Carlos (the one in Baja
California), San Felipe, Loreto, Mulege, Santa Rosalia, Puerto PeÃ±asco (Rocky Point) and Topolobampo.
New facilities would be built in 10 other locations: Cabo Colonet, Puerto Canoa, San Luis Gonzaga, Santa
Rosalillita and BahÃa de los Angeles (all in Baja California); BahÃa de Tortuga, Punta Abreojos and San
Juanico (all in Baja California Sur); BahÃa Kino in Sonora and Altata in Sinaloa. Locations for proposed
airfields and airports are not certain, Tintos Funcke said.
Press Release 6:
Fox's Resort Development Criticized
Impacts of Baja's Marina Development
Fox's resort plans for Mexico face criticism July 16, 2001 Posted: 5:28 PM EDT (2128 GMT)
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- In a plan to develop some of Mexico's still-pristine beaches, President Vicente Fox
has announced a return to the "mega-project" approach that spawned resorts such as Cancun.
But environmentalists and some coastal residents are protesting the big plans that Fox's team of
businessmen-turned-officials say will provide jobs and cash for the new, more modern Mexico that Fox has
"Everybody talks about sustainable development, but they refer only to the environment," said John
McCarthy, Fox's point man on the new projects. "We can't have sustainability when people are in extreme
Environmentalists counter that they are concerned about boosting income, but for local communities rather
than resort developers.
"In the past, these mega-projects have always been shady, suspicious, environmentally damaging," said
environmentalist Homero Aridjis. "They were done behind the backs of local communities and benefited only
officials and a few of their friends."
One plan would create a string of 22 marinas around the Baja California peninsula, turning it into a
playground for 75,000 boat owners from Arizona and California.
Aridjis complained that would lead to crowding and pollution that could harm the rich marine life of the Gulf
There are already nationalist concerns over the peninsula, whose coast is dotted with American homes and
hotels. Fox has proposed having foreign firms build power plants in Baja to supply the United States with
"It worries me that Mexico might become a colony for natural resources for the United States," Aridjis said.
Adan Hernandez, 24, a biology student who helps run a sea turtle center in San Carlos -- one of the
proposed marina sites, also is worried.
"People here don't want to give up their lives as fishermen to become waiters or janitors," he said. "In this
kind of project, we always see the money winds up in the pockets of foreigners."
Giving up fishing is exactly what McCarthy would like many Baja residents to do. He said overfishing means
those who rely on it are headed for poverty.
'Cancun is a symbol of success' McCarthy's projects, the government's first large-scale ventures into resort
building in 20 years, also could transform whole swaths of Mexico's coasts.
On the southern Pacific, McCarthy's National Tourism Fund would transform the Huatulco resort -- most
of whose pristine bays are now reachable only by boat -- by putting pricey hotels and restaurants on every
"If at the end of my term, I can say I developed all the bays at Huatulco, I will be satisfied," McCarthy said.
"Cancun is a symbol of success," he said, though environmentalists often cite the miles-long stretch of high-
rise hotels at the Caribbean resort as an example of overbuilding.
The more laid-back Huatulco, where fishermen earn a living taking tourists to a half-dozen virgin bays from
hotels on two developed beaches, "is an example of something that hasn't worked."
The key for Fox's government is to make money from tourism. A third project would make Mexico's last
stretches of undeveloped Caribbean beaches, an area 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Cancun, into a
super-exclusive vacation area aimed at foreigners.
"It will be high-level tourism for the rich. It's going to be very expensive and very much eco-tourism," said
Environment Secretary Victor Lichtinger.
Lichtinger said McCarthy "won't get everything he wants," suggesting some projects might be scaled down.
But some worry that Lichtinger has a difficult balancing act. As a member of Fox's economic-development
team, he is interested in getting the projects built and advises developers on plans his agency later will
"It's a great advantage," Lichtinger said. "Now we have the possibility to influence all the programs" as they
are proposed. "The environment will be considered from the start, not only at the end."
Raul Benet, director of Greenpeace Mexico, called that a "double-edged sword," which could subordinate
environmental to economic policy. Aridjis called it a conflict of interest.
Critics point to a nearly seamless integration of private corporations, developers and foreign interests in
Fox's government. Fox himself has said his administration "is of businessmen, by businessmen and for
Fox's whole policy, Benet said, "appears aimed at adjusting everything to completely serve the interests of
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