Salvemos Punta Conejo
Industrial Port Project
Mexican Federal Government
Coordinación General de Puertos y Marina Mercante
On the Ground
Reservas de Surf México, A.C.
Union de Surfistas y Salvavidas de Salina Cruz, A.C.
How You Can Help!
On September 20th, at the invitation of the local community, Save The Waves Coalition headed to southern Mexico to the village of Playa Brasil, a small coastal community next to the renowned point break Punta Conejo. The key objective of the trip was to listen and learn from the concerns of surfers, local businesses, fishermen, and community leaders about a potential port project that could do irreparable harm to the local surf ecosystem.
Punta Conejo, a renowned surf break along the coastline of Southern Oaxaca, could be destroyed by the construction of a new industrial port project.
The Mexican Federal Government announced the “Development Plan for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec”, which includes the construction of the Interoceanic Corridor that will connect the ports of Coatzacoalcos, in Veracruz, and Salina Cruz, in Oaxaca, and the introduction of new coastal infrastructure in Salina Cruz.
Save The Waves Coalition, a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems around the world, has joined local partners Reservas de Surf Mexico, A.C., Wildcoast, and Union de Surfistas y Salvavidas de Salina Cruz, A.C. to implore the Mexican government to explore alternatives with a lower impact on the coastal ecosystem and the economies that depend on it.
The entire habitat that surrounds Punta Conejo surf break is a permanent and temporary home for the reproduction and breeding of listed and vulnerable species, including the leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles. Playa Brasil, Playa Azul and Salinas del Marqués lagoon not only provide habitat for endemic animals and plants but are also economically vital ecosystems for the local fishermen.
Punta Conejo is also an internationally recognized surf break and the development of a new port will have a direct impact on the wave. Adding hard structures to a dynamic environment will inevitably lead to negative impacts in wave quality, if not the complete disappearance of this natural resource. Surf breaks with high-quality waves, such as Punta Conejo, are incredibly rare and highly sensitive to changes in the environment. Today, there is a global concern for the protection of surf breaks and the ecosystems that surround them.
Background on the Issue
Punta Conejo surf break is located in the municipality of Salina Cruz in Oaxaca on the Pacific Coast in Southeast Mexico. Salina Cruz is part of a region with a great diversity of flora and fauna and coastal ecosystems, which makes this entire area an attractive destination for ecotourism and adventure tourism.
Salina Cruz started as a small fishing village, but due to its strategic location in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, since 1842, it has been part of a project that aims to connect the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. In December 2018 the Mexican Federal Government announced the “Development Plan for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec”, which integrates the construction of the Interoceanic Corridor connecting the ports of Coatzacoalcos, in Veracruz, and Salina Cruz, in Oaxaca, and the introduction of new coastal infrastructure in Salina Cruz. One of the concerns for the local community and the global surfing community is that the area proposed for the New Industrial Port will impact not only the surf break, but important ecosystems, including Playa Azul, Playa Brasil and the Salinas del Marqués lagoon. This lagoon is classified as wetland # 48 by CONANP in its State Coastal Wetlands Program of Oaxaca (http://www.ordenamientoecologico.oaxaca.gob.mx).
Playa Brasil, Playa Azul and Salinas del Marqués lagoon not only provide habitat for endemic animals and plants, but are also economically vital for local fishermen. In the lagoon, artisanal shrimp fishing is a tradition and part of local livelihoods. When the lagoon dries up, the local fishermen extract salt. With the construction of the new port, this wetland will be destroyed. The entire habitat that surrounds Punta Conejo surf break is a permanent and temporary home for the reproduction and breeding of vulnerable species found on the IUCN Red List, including the leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles. Both species are in NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 and NOM-162-SEMARNAT-2012 in Mexico, which establish the specifications for the protection, recovery, and management of sea turtle populations in their nesting habitat.
In addition, Punta Conejo is an internationally recognized surf break, and the development of the new port would have a direct impact on the wave. At Punta Conejo, sand build up around the headland is integral to the way in which the wave breaks. This wave sometimes is suitable for beginners, but also very conducive to advanced surfers making it very valuable to the surfing community. Adding hard structures to a dynamic environment, that in this case is dominated by sand, will interrupt the natural equilibrium between sediment and waves/currents. The construction of breakwaters, 500 m from the seaward end of Punta Conejo, will interrupt the current sediment transport regime. These interactions together with swells from the Southwest are important for the redistribution of the sand in Punta Conejo that allows the ideal conditions in the surf for long barrels.
Internationally, surf breaks with high-quality waves, such as Punta Conejo, are incredibly rare and highly sensitive to changes in the environment. Today, there is a global concern for the protection of surf breaks and the habitats that surround them. Punta Conejo is an ecosystem of great biological, economic and cultural importance. This area provides ecosystem services to the local community, is the habitat of vulnerable species, has great socio-economic value for the local population, as well as geological and cultural value for ecotourism and surfing.
The local community recognizes the importance of a new port for Mexico but asks the government to explore other alternatives that avoid significant impacts for local ecosystems and waves. The community and environmental conservation groups seek to establish a dialogue with the government to explore alternatives for this project. Save The Waves and Reservas de Surf México, A.C. have partnered with the local community to study the issue and advocate for alternatives to the proposed project.
Punta Conejo is a national treasure and should be protected. While we recognize that a port expansion in the area may be necessary, we implore that the authorities pursue other viable project alternatives and recognize the cultural, biological, and economic resources that Punta Conejo provides.
-Mara Arroyo, Mexico Regional Manager, Save The Waves Coalition