Student’s Corner

An Environmental Conservation Success Story: Cabo Pulmo National Park

It has become the norm to hear about habitat destruction, especially toward delicate marine ecosystems such as coral reefs. It can be easy to hear about all the damage occuring and lose hope for our ability to restore or even just conserve what is left of these natural wonders.

However, the Cabo Pulmo National Park in Mexico is a great example of how proper management can restore marine biodiversity. Once renowned for its economic productivity, the marine ecosystem of Cabo Pulmo’s reef in the Gulf of Mexico began to deteriorate due to overfishing and tourism with no enforcement or control. The corals were bleached and overtaken by algae, and apex predators such as sharks disappeared. The fish stocks collapsed and local fishers struggled to make ends meet. 

In 2008, real estate developers planned to build a resort by the reef that would have further damaged the surrounding ecosystem. The local citizens, worried about what would be left for their future generations, decided to take legal action to protect the reef. The result was a legal framework that labeled the reef as a national park, new enforcement to limit fishing, and international recognition as a UNESCO heritage site. Within a decade under new ecological legal protection biodiversity of the reef was restored with flourishing corals and an abundance of fish.

However, despite the progress that has been made, marine policy still has a long way to go. As more and more research is being done on the changing conditions of marine ecosystems, policies are starting to lag behind. This issue is known as the “knowledge transfer gap” in reference to the lack of communication between scientists and policymakers. Additionally, there are challenges in protecting migratory species such as the gray whale that traverses multiple international borders as this requires international motivation and cooperation. Nevertheless, international cooperation is something that will have to be achieved in order to combat the global problem that is climate change.

Written by Alyssa Horng ‘26

Photo by Alejandro Hernández-Morales on Unsplash