Science, society, and flagship species: social and political history as keys to conservation outcomes in the Gulf of California

Publication Type: Journal Article

Year of Publication: 2016

Authors: Cisneros-Montemayor, A. M. and A.C.J. Vincent.

Journal: Ecology and Society

Abstract:
Socio-political issues are important in environmental policy outcomes but are often overlooked in conservation planning. We analyze the effects of historical social, political, and ecological contexts on conservation policy outcomes as applied to the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve. A rushed implementation, perhaps necessary for the protection of endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and vaquita (Phocoena sinus), occurred with little community consultation, resulting in enduring disgruntlement among stakeholders that undermined its effectiveness. Overfishing and habitat degradation continue both inside and outside the reserve, and totoaba and vaquita remain Critically Endangered, with the latter’s population estimated at approximately 90 individuals. Marine reserves can be useful, but when top-down enforcement is unfeasible, effective environmental policy requires full recognition and integration of political history and social structures and needs, and open discussion on trade-offs when win-win situations are not possible.