Mara Arroyo, Georges Seingier, Gino Passalacqua Walter, and Diego Sancho Gallegos, 2023. “Surf Conservation Index: Mapping priority zones for surf protected areas in Mexico”, Shore & Beach, 91(1), 49-59.
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Surf Conservation Index: Mapping priority zones for surf protected areas in Mexico
Mara Arroyo (1), Georges Seingier (2), Gino Passalacqua Walter (1) and Diego Sancho Gallegos (1)
1) Save The Waves Coalition, 200 Washington #207, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
2) Facultad de Ciencias Marinas, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California,
Carretera Transpeninsular Ensenada — Tijuana No. 3917,
Colonia Playitas C.P. 22860, Ensenada, Baja California, México
A set of indicators was applied to 173 surf breaks in Mexico to help identify priority subregions for surf conservation. The surf conservation index developed consists of pressure, state, and response subindexes, with four scores ranging from very low priority to high priority. Priority surf breaks were defined as the surf breaks where high biodiversity overlaps with high-quality waves, reliance on tourism for income/ economic activity, and low environmental pressure. The highest priority surf breaks for conservation were found in the Gulf of California, followed by the Central-South Pacific coast. Pressure values show that a majority of surf breaks in Mexico are still in an area with low pressure or low population. Most surf breaks have relatively little coastal development and harbors or big cities. The biodiversity subindex, which considers both marine and adjacent terrestrial areas, shows that the highest biodiversity values are found in only 11% of all surf breaks, although 42% of surf breaks have at least half of their marine or terrestrial buffer in biodiversity conservation priority zones, showing a non-negligible presence in critical ecosystems. Overall, the surf break subindex values were generally high and stable, while a majority of surf breaks stand out for having a relatively important proportion of workers employed in tourism. Response analysis shows that only 3.5% of the total listed surf breaks in Mexico are already under a legal protected area framework. A strategy is needed to ensure that surfing, as a recreational activity, and surf breaks, as a natural resource, are considered in present and future management plans. Mexico finds itself at a crossroads as it aims to strengthen surf conservation efforts and preserve these unique coastal socio-ecosystems while also contributing to the sustainable development of local coastal communities.