Enrique Peña Nieto
This week we recognize environmentalist Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico who recently guided legislation through the Mexican Congress that designates 57,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as a protected wildlife refuge. The sanctuary includes an archipelago known as the Revillagigedo Islands, located 242 miles south west of Baja California. It is essentially a submerged volcanic mountain chain with four outcroppings. It is often called the Galapagos of North America, or more affectionately as Mexico’s “crown jewel.” The islands are home to hundreds of animal and plant species, including turtles, lizards and migratory birds. The surrounding waters are central to the lives of 400 fish species, sharks, whales and rays. It is also the breeding ground of tuna – a rapidly endangered species because it is commercially “harvested” faster than the population can reproduce. The legislation also bans all mining and hotel construction on the islands. Advancing this legislation has been characterized as an act of political courage, considering the overwhelming opposition it has received from the fishing industry. In signing the bill, President Peña Nieto said, “We remain committed to the preservation not only of Mexico’s, but the world’s heritage.”
Only 6% of the global ocean surface currently has protected status. And, it probably comes as no surprise that the current U.S. Administration is determined to undo America’s two marine national monuments: the Rose Atoll in the Pacific and the Northeast Canyons off the coast of New England (considered vital if the Cod fish is to survive.) Our thanks to Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican government for the courage and leadership required to protect our increasingly vulnerable planet.