Brief History of Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, Aquarium of the World !
In the mid 90s, this village of fewer than 200 residents came to a decision as a community that changed the fate of the surrounding coral reef and its fish population: Cabo Pulmo stopped fishing commercially.
The Sea of Cortez (or Gulf of California) is one of the most productive seas in the world, famously called “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau. At the southeastern tip of the peninsula, where the waters of the Sea of Cortez remain the perfect temperature, lies the northernmost coral reef in the American Pacific: the Cabo Pulmo reef, once famed for the abundance of its fish and other marine life. In the “Log from the Sea of Cortez”, John Steinbeck wrote of his 1940 visit to Cabo Pulmo :
"The complexity of the life pattern on Pulmo Reef was even greater than at Cabo San Lucas. Clinging to the coral, growing on it, burrowing into it, was a teeming fauna. Every piece of the soft material broken off, skittered and pulsed with life, little crabs and worms and snails. One small piece of coral might conceal 30 or 40 species, and the colors on the reef were electric.”
However, by the early 1990’s, advances in fishing technology, refrigeration and transportation were emptying the formerly rich Cabo Pulmo reef of all of its fish. It was at this point that local fishermen decided to stop fishing, protect the reef, and change from a commercial fishing economy to a tourism-based economy, and in 1995, Cabo Pulmo was declared a National Marine Park.
This was an extremely difficult and complex process, as Cabo Pulmo is located in a tiny desert enclave without major resources, little water, isolated from the rest of the state, and fishing was the village’s only important source of economic production. After making the commitment to protect the reef, all bets were on tourism, a fairly unknown activity for the East Cape at the time.
It was not an easy task for the people of Cabo Pulmo, but today their efforts have been rewarded by nature. The fish population in the national park area has increased by over 450% according to scientific studies by Scripps Institute, which has given Cabo Pulmo a prominant place among the Mexican and global maritime scientific community and in the world of diving as the most successful marine reserve in the world.
The Cabo Pulmo marine reserve now provides a glimpse of what our seas were like before the era of massive fishing. The recovery in number of species, size of fish, and increase in number of top predators (yes, sharks!) has been astonishing. In short, this small village gave the world a lesson in coexistence with the environment without destroying it. Here they demonstrated that it is possible to reverse the process of systematic plundering of our natural resources. Today we are a model for the protection and regeneration for compromised reef systems and fisheries all over the world.
Diving is exceptional throughout all seasons, always full of surprises. The waters of this park vary with the seasons, ranging from green and cold (winter and spring) to beautifully warm and clear waters that put it on par with a Caribbean dive. When the water is cold, visibility usually decreases, but at those times the abundance of fish and other marine species increases greatly, so there is still much to see. As an added bonus, Cabo Pulmo features unique phenomena such as schools of "mobulas" jumping around on the water’s surface, and at certain times of the year whales, dolphins and orcas make guest appearances.
During the warm season, visibility dramatically improves. Note that, in Cabo Pulmo, the probability of seeing sharks during a dive are very high in certain places throughout the year. Also, one of the most outstanding attractions of Pulmo`s waters are shoals of jacks that become so abundant that the schools block the passage of sunlight and extend from the water surface to the seabed. At times these schools begin a slow swirling dance that has become known as the famous “jack tornado”. This amazing natural phenomenon occurs in Pulmo throughout most of the year. In one day at Cabo Pulmo, you may see what in other places would take a lifetime!
Cabo Pulmo is certainly a unique experience of diving for any level of experience and in any season.
Parallel to the aquatic world of Cabo Pulmo, you will also find serene beauty above the water: miles of walking trails through desert landscapes, ideal for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. All of these activities, coupled with the tranquility of the area, attract many tourists who require services such as lodging and restaurants, and this has generated an economic framework whose influence extends beyond the dive centers.