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Environmentalists: “La Roqueta is Dying from Neglect”

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 27 June, 2011

(Acapulco, NA 27 June) Environmentalists have raised the cry that on Roqueta Island, the nature preserve at the mouth of Acapulco’s bay, an overpopulation of badgers and an infestation of termites is quickly killing the ecosystem. In an interview with Novedades Acapulco, ecologists and representatives of the Asociación Ecológica y Pro Defensa de la Isla La Roqueta say that while the termites are killing the trees, which offer habitat to several species of birds, the excessive number of badgers is drastically reducing the population of marine birds and other wildlife on the island. More importantly, humans are the worst predators on the island. The capture, which is technically illegal, of marine life, including sea tortoises, dolphins, rare fish species and mollusks, continues unchecked. The local representative of the agency designated to protect the environment, SERMANAT, has previously denied it can stop this activity, which continues unabated. The ecologists have provided photographic evidence, both on the island, and under the surface of the waters around the preserve. The experts point to a loophole in the law, which has existed for more than 10 years, permitting predators, mainly humans, to operate without any risk of interference. In so doing, they risk throwing the entire ecosystem out of balance.

Environmentalist Leonel Lozano Domínguez affirmed that “the furtive extraction of marine species is an open secret. They indiscriminately take all sorts of species, using the prohibited type of net that ensnares and drowns sea reptiles and mammals. There is no program to counteract all these attacks, which go against the conservation of the area.” Another pointed to the fact that for less than $10 the federal government will issue a fishing license, and the fishing cooperatives then go out with illegal nets, overfishing the area and killing whales, dolphins and tortoises, especially in the Boca Chica channel, which separates the island from the mainland.

The disappearance of brightly colored fish has damaged the livelihood of the more than 300 operators of glass bottom boats and the Scuba diving schools. The island is considered a nursery for the species found in the bay, and the ransacking of the breeding and hatching grounds has led to a scarcity of both ornate marine species as well as food fish.

Meanwhile, on the island, the termites are gradually killing all the trees. The cry of birds from the treetops, once immediately audible and noticeable, has all but disappeared. The nests are empty, and termite mounds the size of large piñatas are everywhere among the branches. The signs along the pathways on the island have been destroyed or stolen. Graffiti mars rocks and trees everywhere. The only fresh water spring on the island now runs heavily polluted, causing more species to disappear. The neglect may be the result of a complicated overlay of federal jurisdiction for the island. The Navy is responsible for security and law enforcement, but the environmental authorities are supposed to care for the nature preserve. La Roqueta seems to be a fly ball that falls between two outfielders. A joint committee for the preservation of La Roqueta, made up of fishing cooperatives and restaurant-concessionaires, together with tourism officials, the port authority, the Navy and the environmental agencies, has not met in ten years.