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Mexican Marine Reserve Is ‘World’s Most Robust’

Above: Hidden Baja Undersea Park is the "world's most robust marine reserve," according to scientists.

Audio

Aired 8/17/11

There's Cabo San Lucas, the popular tourist destination, and then about 80 miles East there's Cabo Pulmo. That's where scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography discovered the unexpected.

Life has changed dramatically underwater and on land for the tiny town of Cabo Pulmo.

The town once depleted by fishing, is tucked away near the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula in the Gulf of California.

But Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego say a big transformation happened after the local community enforced a strict fishing ban around a 27-square-mile area.

Researchers began to study the area more than 10 years ago. Back then, researchers say they found only a small number of medium sized fish.

Fast forward to 2010, and lead scientists Octavio Aburto-Oropeza said they discovered fish populations bounced back beyond their expectations, more than 460 percent over the last decade.

This time around, researchers found thousands of large fish, such as snappers, groupers and even sharks.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Aburto-Oropeza said.

Researchers are calling it the most robust marine reserve in the world.

He said the community played a big role in its success by strictly enforcing the fishing ban.

But big change didn't only happen underwater.

"They started developing tourist companies, they've been bringing tourists to dive in the reefs and do snorkeling and kayaking inside the park," Aburto-Oropeza said.

He said marine reserves such as the one in Cabo Pulmo can help reduce local poverty and stimulate the economy.

Controversial marine reserves are slated to take effect off Southern California's coast in the Fall, but the restrictions won't be as strict as the ones in Cabo Pulmo.

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