We bid our farewells to Bahía Santa Maria with one more kite foil and yoga session, picked up the anchor, unfurled the jib, and headed downwind to Bahía Magdalena, known by many cruisers as “Mag Bay.” Bahía is pronounced (b AA – ee – uh) for all you gringos.
It was a short sail but we were still able to catch a small yellowtail while trolling.
Everywhere you looked were whale spouts and because we didn’t have a motor on, I was constantly worrying they wouldn’t hear us coming! After a few hours, we arrived inside the bay and dropped the hook. Home sweet home, for the next few days.
We landed the dingy on the beach right away and saw at one end of the point there was a fisherman village. I was determined to check it out but as I walked that way, we heard gunshots. Needless to say, I turned around. Best case scenario going through my mind, they are just trying to scare the birds away from their hard day’s work of fishing. Worst case scenario, they were doing some illegal drug smuggling and they didn’t want any visitors. Whether they were trying to scare the birds or me, I decided lets look around this beautiful beach and Baja desert instead. I found all kinds of tracks that I hope someone can identify for me! I’m thinking some kind of lizard?
Eventually I was just relaxing, communing with nature on the beach, enjoying the sunshine, and two fisherman with their white rubber boots walked by carrying a big bag of abalone they just harvested off the point. I said hello, and that I was interested in checking out the whaling pier remains and they said that as long as I stayed on the beach area, it was totally fine for me to go over there!
The next day, Kyber and I explored our way down to the point, found very little sea glass, but did end up finding a kind group of fisherman, pulling their pangas up the beach. They had, of course, lots of sharks in their pangas. We talked and they said that they were happy to show me around the village. We also, of course, stoked them out with LighterBros.
They showed me where the guy takes the shark heads and turns the row of teeth into the things you see in gift shops. It was interesting to see how he props it open and dries it out. I didn’t really like to see it. But I’m happy that they are using every little bit of the shark if they are going to be killing them.
I was impressed by their solar panels and rain water catchment systems. It was interesting to see how many villages, with barely any modern day technology, still lived off of solar! Honestly from my uneducated impressions, it was probably so that the lonely fisherman could charge their phones to call their girlfriends and families back home.
Manowar Cove Village
I set out on this journey, not just to enjoy the surf, sun, and sea, but more to do the Heartwood Path personal growth activities and to help spread environmental awareness. To go out of my way, to help the earth, and to depict the environmental stressors, from true first hand stories. This is not an article saying, climate change is happening, here are the facts. This is not an article saying, the water temperature is rising, here is the proof. This is an article, that hopes to put some perspective on the issues we face. That hopes to share what is actually happening to actual people. This is also a success story. Something I hope will inspire you to get out there and make a difference.
This is the story of Jose Banderos Romero, a local restaurant owner in a very small fisherman village in Bahía Magdelena. And by local restaurant owner, I mean… the ONLY local restaurant owner. Literally there was one restaurant.
As we charged it in the dingy in the rain and landed on the beach, it was clear that the livelihood of this town was the Fisherman Co-op. Many fisherman were unloading their catches, as someone manages the scale, and as someone keeps tally at a desk with an old school calculator. The main catch I was seeing was lobster. They were all so friendly and everyone was smiling and laughing.
We sought fresh produce for our next voyage and I asked where the fruiteria was. Literally the gentleman pointed to a man standing at the end of the road, who waved back, and they told me to go talk to this man. So I walked down the dirt road to the man and asked if there was a fruiteria and he said no. Slightly confused, I said, what about tomatoes? He shook his head yes, and lead me into what looked like a house. Inside were bins of, (standard fare) tomato, onion, jalapeños, and potatoes. Then there were about two shelves full of galletas (cookies), masa, and various canned goods. We collected as many tomatoes as we needed and went on our way, feeling very grateful to have found fresh produce, amongst a land of seafood.
On our way back to the boat, I saw a jolly man who had such a friendly welcoming vibe. I knew that the big town, Puerto San Carlos in Bahia Magdalena was a mecca of environmental organizations in Baja and it was our last chance to find someone to interview about their local efforts. I asked him if he knew of anyone who knew anything about the sea turtles. He then told me that he had been working for the sea turtle group for 15 years. So I began to interview him. THANKS to Dani Jobe for helping me translate and Nikki Cordero for helping connect us!
I wasn’t sure really if I was understanding what he was saying but I did know that he seemed to have a lot of information. He went on to describe that 15-20 years ago, there were many people eating and selling sea turtles, even right there in that town. (I’m wondering if he used to serve them at his restaurant I was standing in). He said that eventually a group named Tortugueros of California came to Mexico to help save the sea turtles. I know other groups in Mexico are specifically working to save the Critically Endangered Pacific Leatherback population which is on the verge of extinction.
Jose traveled to Cabo for a week-long seminar with the Tortugeuros de California and eventually the seminar participants started to inform the public about the issues with the turtles and the public “started to help them.” He said that the turtle population went from 5% [of the original population] to 100%, up from what it was 15 to 20 years ago. He said that informing the public was amazingly influential. He said that now the turtles are abundant! He did say that they still get caught in the fishing lines which is a problem but that the population is back to 100% of what it was 15-20 years ago.
He said that very infrequently people will still take one turtle, and that it will feed the whole town, but that they are no longer selling the turtles. I am so inspired to hear that once people like Jose, found out what was happening to the sea turtle population, they stopped eating them! Then there was no one to sell them to, even if they tried! There are many different groups who have incubators for turtles and help set them free into the wild. But this was interesting that he said simply informing the public made a huge difference. The fact that people stopped eating them so frequently is a major success.
However the sea turtles still need your help. NOAA’s current threats to the sea turtles say they are: “destruction and alteration of nesting and feeding habitats, incidental capture (bycatch) in commercial and recreational fisheries, entanglement in marine debris, and vessel strikes.” WWF list of current threats to Leatherback Sea Turtles are: Habitat loss and degradation, Wildlife trade, Collection of eggs and meat for consumption, Incidental capture (bycatch), Climate change, and Pollution. Stay tuned on Livin.LighterBro.com for more sea turtle conservation efforts.
As for the whales. It was also interesting to hear that the past three years, they hadn’t seen very many whales in Bahia Magdalena. Something you should know is that “eco-tours,” which just means whale-watching tours in this case, is one of their main industries in Bahia Magdalena. When there are no whales for the tours, there are many people out of work. When he said that the past three years there were not many whales, that does not mean that they didn’t get to enjoy seeing them breach, that also means many people were unable to support themselves and their family, and had to find a different job.
His theory on why the whales didn’t come around was because of climate change. Now we can sit here and argue over if the temperature increase of the water for the past 3 years was due to El Niño or global warming, but that is not what I am here to do. I just want people to understand how JOSE and his community perceives climate change. No matter what, hypothetically, say that the sea temperatures do increase, that is obviously going to result in migration patterns changing. I just hope that this helps you put to perspective how rapid environmental changes effect a person like Jose. He has a small restaurant in a small town that is centered around fishing, and eco tours. Both of those industries rely on healthy ecosystems. Without those two industries bringing people to that town, people would not be eating at his restaurants.
While the whaling industry in Mexico stopped in the 1980’s, the issues they were facing, was more indirect. So what does that mean? When I’m driving my car? I’m indirectly causing the whales to change their migration pattern? If you believe in climate change, and that we are contributing to it. Then your answer is yes. We are all connected. But one thing is certain that without awareness and facts, it is hard to make people change their behaviors.
Another topic we talked about with Jose was the Mangrove trees. I had heard that they were an eco-system in trouble. However, we took Red Rocket through one and it looked like it was not only healthy but it was thriving. That is why I asked him about the Mangrove population. Turns out that they were in trouble 30 years ago because people were using them for firewood. Once they saw that it was so detrimental, they informed people, and they changed their behaviors. This is another success story!
So what’s the moral of the story for the turtles, whales, and mangroves? Education can go a long way. And I hope that seeing conservation efforts through Jose’s eyes, helps you to understand how to help inform others and helps you feel inspired. That helps you hear, not just a doom and gloom environmental story, but a story of progress, success, and hope.
Cruising for a cause
After capturing this video, I truly felt like we were cruising for a cause. Sure, we were always living off solar and wind, traveling by the energy of mother nature, eating locally caught seafood, and making our own water, but to me, that’s not enough. To me, you can’t just live sustainably yourself, and you can’t just do environmental activism when it gets handed to you. You have to go out and seek it, fight for it, sacrifice for it. But I realized that, that’s just, to me. That’s part of who I am. I want to go out of my way, to make the world a better place for all beings, both human and non-human. I feel a deep void if I do not. A void that eats me alive.
But that mentality is not for everyone. And it doesn’t need to be. This video showed me that as long as you have an open heart and a true desire to do good in this world, opportunities will present themselves, that actually you don’t always have to go out of your way to be an environmental activist. That there are millions and zillions of ways to make a difference.
Whether you are a “Jose,” attending the seminar to learn how to spread awareness, or “la gente” (the people), who listen, learn, and act sustainably, when we all acknowledge the issues at hand and work together, we can in fact, “poco a poco” (little by little), save the turtles, save the whales, save the mangroves, and even save the earth.
“Who Knows” – Protoje