Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Mexico Acts to Protect Coasts

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, declared at the UN's conference of parties to the Biological Diversity Convention much of Mexico's Caribbean, Baja coasts and deep ocean will become protected areas.  The meeting is being held in Cancun this week.  He also signed a decree creating three new marine biosphere reserves.  One of these areas encompasses almost half of the Mezoamerican Reef that stretches from the northern tip of the Yucatan through Belize to Honduras and Guatemala and includes reefs and coastal lagoons that are inhabited by 500 species of fish and over 1900 species of plants and animals.

The two Pacific reserves cover both near shore islands inhabited by sea birds and marine mammals and the deep sea water column below 800 meters down to the seabed.  In the core areas, sea bed trawling is prohibited to protect fragile ecosystems that live there.  Mexico's Navy will enforce the protected reserves and Germany is helping Mexico with funding the new reserves estimated to cost 130 million pesos annually.  The new reserves help Mexico meet its commitment under the Aichi Target 11 of the Convention to preserve  at least 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of coastal and marine areas.  The new reserves brings Mexico's total to 22% of its entire coastal and marine area.

In contrast to Mexico's demonstrated commitment to biological diversity, critics of the outgoing Obama administration are urging Trump to rescind the several National Monument declarations he has made in the closing days of his administration. No president has rescinded declarations made by his predecessor in office, so such a move will definitely trigger a legal battle to determine the extent of a President's authority to make such declarations permanent law.  Critics say Obama has abused his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act.  At one time Congress took an active role in creating national monuments, but its authority has fallen into disuse during a decades-long political gridlock in Washington.  It has also abolished over the years several  monuments designated by a President.  Resource extraction is the primary motivation behind the move to have Trump rescind the designations.  No new resource extraction may take place in a National Monument and existing, valid claims may only be exploited to the extent Monument lands are not degraded in the process.