Mission Blue is proud to partner with Christian Vizl!
By: Christian Vizl, Underwater Photographer
In times where the Ocean is facing grave dangers like overfishing, acidification, warming, contamination, etc. a group of local fishermen are giving an example to the rest of the world, and a reason to hope.
Cabo Pulmo is located in the southernmost tip of the Sea of Cortez and used to be a very small fisherman’s town due to its natural abundance of marine life. With the pass of time (and overfishing) they started to became aware of the increasing scarcity of their catch, and took a bold decision; stop all commercial fishing, partner with scientists of a local university and the government to declare the area a national marine park. Since then, they became tourist operators taking people to visit this incredible and beautiful sanctuary for marine life.
Today it has become one of the healthiest marine reserves in the world according to a 10-year study conducted by SCRIPPS institute from the university of San Diego. This study revealed that from 1999 to 2009 the number of fishes or biomass in the ecosystem of the park increased more than 460%!
In recent times, it´s becoming increasingly obvious even for the scientific community that fishes are a lot more than just tons of food available for human consumption, or basic animals only driven by their instincts. Science has proven that in fact fishes are intelligent individuals with minds and memories, feelings, personalities and a range of emotions, capable social learners, they can have culture transmitted from generation to generation, they can plan and use tools, create lifelong bonding’s, they can recognize individuals from their own species and others, are vulnerable to depression and anxiety, and they even play and have joy while doing certain activities just like we do!
For me, diving in Cabo Pulmo means not only the rare opportunity to witness one of nature’s most amazing spectacles, but also the amazing feeling of being surrounded by all this beautiful individuals knowing they are protected and no one can kill them! Only a few hundred meters from the coast, and after a 5-10 min ride by boat, you can jump in the water and encounter gigantic schools of thousands of Jacks. I will never forget the first time I saw them, it was in November 2012 and it happened on my very first immersion. As soon as I entered the water, the biggest school of Jacks I have witnessed so far greeted me. I`ve heard about this Jacks, but nothing prepared me for actually being right there, in their presence. I was in complete aw, I just could not believe nature could have this amazing congregation of life, and it was right in front of me. I stayed near the surface for a while, just enjoying the spectacle with my camera on hand, but without remembering to take a picture. I was hypnotized observing the incredible and endless forms they create while swimming together, usually in a swirling pattern thus giving the illusion of a living tornado. Suddenly I saw one of my dive buddies near the sandy bottom, some 20 meters deep near the vortex of the twister when I snapped out of this dreamy state that I was in, and started to take my first images. I knew I had only a few seconds to take a shot with the diver at the bottom, which gave the whole scene a sense of scale…and after that, I understood I was hooked for life and planned to visit them at least once a year.
This sight alone is well worth the entire trip, but fortunately there are some other very interesting sites as well. Not far from where the Jacks are usually spotted, there is a small shipwreck where other big schools of fishes are commonly seen, and for the past couple of years an increasing number of bull sharks are also a common encounter. Cabo Pulmo is home to the northernmost coral reefs of the eastern pacific, hosting a vast variety of other marine animals like over 220 species of fishes like butterfly fish, snappers, big groupers, sweetlips, porcupine fish, eels, as well as a lot of rays. Frequent visitors are Humpback whales, dolphins, whale sharks, and if this was not enough, a sea lion colony!
Thanks to amazing people like the former fishermen from Cabo Pulmo and all the team at Mission Blue, the rest of us can have very good reason to hope for a future where marine animals are no longer viewed as a commodity and are protected from human predation.