Text by Jonathan Vargas
Photo by Bryan Gerardo and Jonathan Vargas
Translated by Óscar Gómez and Antonieta Valenzuela
Bahía de Todos Santos Shorebird Reserve
Bahía de Todos Santos, located in Ensenada, Baja California, is a site of ecological importance on which thousands of migratory shorebirds depend throughout the year, including species of worldwide conservation interest, such as the red knot (Calidris canutus roselaari).
During spring and summer, the sandy beaches are used as refuge and breeding areas by the snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) and the least tern (Sternula antillarum), both considered threatened species and under special protection by the Mexican Official Norm 059 (SEMARNAT, 2010).
Thanks to its importance for migratory shorebirds, in 2017 Bahía de Todos Santos was declared a Site of Regional Importance of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), and thus becoming the 99th shorebird reserve in the American continent for hosting 20,000 shorebirds throughout the year and the 4% of the Pacific populations of the snowy plover. This was achieved thanks to the collaboration between Terra Peninsular and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), Dr. Eduardo Palacios (CICESE), and the participation of authorities and organizations.
The site is also considered an Important Bird Conservation Area (AICA for its acronym in Spanish), and it is also included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. In addition, it is considered as a Priority Site of The Pacific Americas Flyway due to its importance to shorebirds (Senner et al., 2017).
Shorebirds Are in Danger!
Shorebirds frequently compete with humans for coastal habitats, including beaches, marshes, saltpeter beds, mangroves, lagoons, and wetlands. Urban development, especially in Latin America, leads to habitat destruction and degradation, increased disturbance and degradation of shorebird feeding, resting and breeding sites (Senner et al. 2017). These are some problems that have caused the decreasing of 30% of shorebird population in North America or under some conservation program.
The sandy beaches of Ensenada have been absorbed and fragmented by urban development, the growth of the agricultural zone around Punta Banda Estuary, and the several households.
This means the place is now used as a recreational area without control. One of the biggest problems is the excessive use of off-road vehicles, putting not only shorebirds, but also, individuals and their families at risk.
Another issue that shorebirds face is the continuous presence of off-leash dogs that disturb and in some cases affect them. In addition, there is a major problem of predation due to the presence of packs of feral stray cats and dogs.
Conservation Actions: #ShareTheBeach
Between June and August of 2018, Terra Peninsular in cooperation with Pacífica at Ensenada Bay, Contacto Salvaje, Ellos Son la Razón, and the support of the Directorate of the Federal Terrestrial Maritime Zone of Ensenada, launched the campaign “La Playa es de Todos” (“Share The Beach, in English), with the aim of protecting breeding shorebirds through four main activities:
- Installation of a temporary fence to protect nests and breeding pairs.
- Rescue and rehabilitation of stray dogs.
- Environmental education activities.
- Prevent the usage of motorized vehicles on nesting sites.
Nowadays, thanks to the Coastal Solutions Fellows Program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the conservation actions of shorebirds such as the snowy plover have been intensified with this project. A nesting site monitoring and management program has been implemented to reduce disturbance and to increase the reproductive success of this endangered species.
For the next decade, the Coastal Solutions Fellows Program will support young planners, developers, and scientists in Latin America to implement new solutions for the current challenges that coastal ecosystems and their communities faces.
The program will support six young professionals per year to implement a project at a priority site on the Pacific Flyway in Latin America. I had the honor of being selected for the 2019-2020 class.
All fellows will receive two years of funding, mentoring, and professional development opportunities, including annual retreats that combine peer learning and strategic trainings.
About the Project
To protect shorebirds, the Coastal Solutions project in Bahía de Todos Santos aims to solve the problem caused by vehicle traffic on Ensenada’s beaches, through active collaboration with various government agencies, private initiative, and civil society organizations, which allows us to find strategies and alternatives to promote the regulation of the sustainable use of beaches and natural resources of Bahía de Todos Santos.
To achieve our goal, we will promote appropriate regulations for the use of beaches and shorebirds critical habitat in Bahía de Todos Santos. We established a program to monitor bird populations and its disturbance during 2019 to 2020, through the application of citizen science, research, and habitat management projects.
A publicity and environmental awareness campaign will be created to promote the importance of shorebirds, as well as an architectural landscape proposal focused on highlighting the ecotourism potential of the bay that benefits the conservation of shorebirds habitats, and that can be included in municipal development plans. In addition, a program to control populations of feral and stray dogs and cats has been created, this program will help to reduce the predation pressure during the snowy plover breeding season.
This project was possible thanks to the support of some associates with whom we are deeply grateful: Dr. Eduardo Palacios (CICESE), Pacífica at Ensenada Bay, ZOFEMAT, Contacto Salvaje, Ensenada’s Ecology Department, Secretariat on Environment Protection of Baja California, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CICESE, UABC, Pro Esteros, Los Correcaminos Club, El Ciprés military zone, Municipal Police, Ellos Son La Razón, Ensenada’s Canine and Feline Center, Ensenada’s Urban Birds Program (PAU Ensenada), INPACVI, Bahía de Todos Santos Surf’s Reserve, San Diego Zoo, Snowy Plover Mexican Monitoring Network (CHORLNEV), Luke Eberhart Phillips and Dr. Daniel Galindo (UABCS), among many others.
- Senner, S. E., Andrés B. A., & Gates H. R. (Eds.) (2017). Estrategia de Conservación de las Aves Playeras de la Ruta del Pacífico de las Américas. National Audubon Society, New York, USA. Retrieved from http://www.shorebirdplan.org.
- Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (2010). Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059- SEMARNAT-2010. Diario Oficial de la Federación (DOF). Retrieved from http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle_popup.php?codigo=5173091
JONATHAN VARGAS has Master’s Degree in Marine and Coastal Sciences from the UABCS, currently he is part of the Coastal Solutions Fellow Program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, as well as the Bird Conservation Projects Associate at Terra Peninsular email@example.com
1. Map of the Bahía de Todos Santos Shorebird Reserve.
2. Female snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) named Marina. Photo: Jonathan Vargas.
3. Vehicles on Ensenada beaches. Photo: Jonathan Vargas.
4. Presence of off-leash dogs. Photo: Jonathan Vargas.
5. Press conference to launch “Share the Beach” campaign in 2018. From left to right:
Jonathan Vargas (Coastal Solutions-Terra Peninsular), Fernanda Escobosa (Pacifica at Ensenada Bay), Claudia Guzmán (Terra Peninsular), Keila Pino (Ellos Son La Razón) and Marco Antonio Martínez (Contacto Salvaje). Photo: Antonieta Valenzuela.
6. First generation of fellows and mentors at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York, March 2019. Photo: courtesy.
7. Snowy plover nest protected against predators. Photo: Jonathan Vargas.
8. Temporary protection fence. Photo: Bryan Gerardo.
9. Jonathan Vargas is part of the class 2019-2020 of the Coastal Solutions Fellows Program.
10. Snowy plover chick. Photo: Jonathan Vargas.
11. A family of snowy plovers in Ensenada. Photo: Jonathan Vargas.
12. The installation of the protection fence was possible thanks to the help of volunteers. Photo: Bryan Gerardo.