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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together 1 Introduction Mexico and the United States share a common land border stretching approximately 3,000 kilometers. Just as important are the ocean and coastal areas shared by the two nations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, where the activities of one nation impact the other (Figure 1.1). A third marine area, the Gulf of California, is totally within the boundaries of Mexico but is significantly affected by activities in the United States through the influence of the Colorado River and the impact of U.S. tourism around the gulf. A fourth marine area, the Caribbean Sea, is of major importance to both nations because the Gulf of Mexico is impacted by Caribbean Sea processes and each nation has coastal areas bounded by this sea. Therefore, Mexico and the United States should cooperate with other Caribbean nations to improve understanding of the marine environment in the region. The ocean areas separated by the U.S.-Mexico border may be politically distinct but are in fact unified natural systems in which increasing use of living and nonliving marine resources by both nations will undoubtedly take place, hopefully in a rational and sustainable manner. Such development presents unique opportunities and responsibilities for binational research to make rational and sustainable development possible and to build closer human ties across the political border. In the 1970s, it was clear to all developing countries that they needed to participate effectively in the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). These nations also realized their serious deficiencies in marine science knowledge, marine science expertise, and marine infrastructure to carry out their anticipated responsibilities under the Third UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (CONVEMAR). Many coastal developing countries made significant
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together FIGURE 1.1 Overview of U.S. and Mexican coastal and ocean areas discussed in the report. The approximate boundaries of the exclusive economic zones of the two nations are shown. Source: Modified from Ross and Fenwick (1992). investments in marine science during the 1970s to prepare for implementation of CONVEMAR. Like other developing coastal nations, Mexico followed this course, which is very different from what transpired in the United States. In the 1970s, Mexico funded joint projects with resources from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), national funds, and on a lesser level through loans from the World Bank and other banks. All of these entities are oriented toward developing physical infrastructure and human resources, so Mexico emphasized these as aspects of development; relatively little funding was available from international sources for research. For example, the Agency for International Development (AID) focuses on programs of infrastructure development, and is quite opposed to funding basic scientific research. However, there was an implied commitment that countries would provide their own resources for research after the infrastructure was in place. In the 1970s, Mexico made a large investment in marine sciences. Early in the decade, a mid- to long-term policy brought together the federal government, state governments, universities, and research institutions. A large number of vis-
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together iting foreign experts and professors participated; Mexico funded a large number of long-term scholarships for Mexican graduate students in several institutions in Mexico and abroad (e.g., in the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Israel, Norway, Sweden, USSR, Japan, Australia, and Chile), mostly with Mexican funds and additional support of the UNDP. The purpose of such scholarships was to build the fundamental critical mass of human resources (at the Ph.D. level). Other investments were designed to strengthen existing institutions, create new research centers in different parts of the country, and buy equipment and build infrastructure in accordance with national and international needs. The UNCLOS Conference culminated in 1982 with the approval of the Law of the Sea Convention and the ratification process started. Almost simultaneously, the world, especially in the developing countries, was plunged into an international debt crisis. In 1994, the ratification of CONVEMAR finished and the CONVEMAR Convention entered into force. Because of the debt crisis, it was difficult to obtain significant research funding in Mexico and Mexican marine science was disadvantaged at a time when the United States was making significant advances in funding for ocean sciences. A trilateral partnership was formed among the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México [UNAM]), the National Council on Science and Technology (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Teconología [CONACyT]), and the Mexican Petroleum Corporation (Petróleos Mexicanos [PEMEX]). It included operation and support of two Mexican oceangoing research vessels, which provided Mexican oceanographers the opportunity to participate in the development of open-ocean research. This partnership was a major step forward and a unique national success. After signing the agreement, the most difficult part started: developing the necessary ocean science knowledge in Mexican institutions, strengthening the physical infrastructure for ocean sciences, and establishing proper peer-review mechanisms of evaluation. The three partners had financial concerns and a lack of understanding that open-ocean research can only be done with uninterrupted financial support. Unfortunately, as a result of the debt crisis, this project lost its political and budgetary support. With the diminished access to ocean-going research vessels, the support of Mexican ocean sciences became more difficult. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mexican efforts continued in ocean sciences under difficult budgetary conditions. During this time, however, Mexico participated in several international oceanographic activities and events, such as hosting the Joint Oceanographic Assembly in Acapulco, Mexico in 1988, which resulted in Oceanography 1988 (Ayala-Castañares et al., 1989). Mexico's efforts and investment in oceanographic development from 1970 to 1990 were not unilateral; they were a response to the urgent geopolitical need to establish means to exercise its sovereign rights and sustain the resources within its territorial and jurisdictional waters. More information on these aspects can be found in Ayala-Castañares and Escobar (1996).
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together The importance accorded to coastal and ocean issues differs between the United States and Mexico in significant ways. In the United States, coastal population densities are increasing more rapidly than inland densities and a high proportion (45%) of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties (NOAA, 1990). Mexico's population and modern history have been concentrated in the interior of the country, which generally is cooler and more conducive to agriculture. The United States has always been a maritime nation; this feature has influenced national development and resource use in important ways, from colonial ocean trade routes to Cold War naval activities. Mexico has been much more focused on the development and use of its terrestrial and nearshore resources. These differences in history, maritime traditions, trading patterns, and development affect the marine plans and attitudes of the two countries in many ways. For example, recognition of the value of marine sciences and marine education as necessary for decisionmaking in the larger context of governmental and national policy, although relatively modest in the United States, has been even more modest in Mexico. The siting of power plants in coastal areas of Mexico is considered highly appropriate and less subject to adverse reaction by the local citizenry than in the United States. Conversely, there are sectors of Mexican national life in which ocean-related issues loom at least as large as in the corresponding U.S. sectors, whether or not policymakers in Mexico have recognized this situation. For example, the development of a major tourist economy in Mexico has been possible because of relatively unspoiled, but exquisitely sensitive, tropical, subtropical, and coral reef ecosystems. Likewise, offshore oil and gas production is a major component of the Mexican economy and is a stimulus of national development. This industry depends on knowledge generated by marine geologists for exploration and on information from marine biologists, chemists, and physicists to ensure that development activities do not harm the marine environment. These economic, historical, and cultural differences between the nations lead to differences in priorities for responding to marine environmental problems and the level of resources devoted to the ocean sciences necessary to understand such problems. Yet, the ocean has no respect for national borders. Mexico and the United States are inextricably linked in the search for rational, science-based solutions of many pressing marine problems that affect both nations. Some examples of issues in which a coordinated binational approach is clearly more advantageous than purely national efforts follow. FISHERIES Fish and crustacean stocks range across the junctions of the U.S. and Mexico exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and fishing activities in each nation affect the catch available to the other nation. Two obvious examples are shrimp and tuna in the Gulf of Mexico and sardines and anchovies off the coast of the Californias. In addition to fishing activities, indirect effects from habitat alteration and pollution
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together can affect fish populations in the waters of both nations. Based on a continuing collaboration between the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations and Mexico's National Fisheries Institute (Instituto Nacional de la Pesca [INP]) a program called MEXUS-Pacifico was initiated in 1987 as a cooperative activity between the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Mexico's INP to collect scientific information on shared fish stocks, mammals, and turtles through collaborative research. A similar program in the Gulf of Mexico, MEXUS-Golfo, was initiated in 1977 and is a cooperative venture between INP and the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Mexico and the United States participate in a variety of multinational organizations designed to manage pelagic fish stocks. Binational collaborative management of shared nearshore fish stocks also would be highly desirable. Such management could be accomplished under the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention of 10 December 1982, Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (United Nations, 1995). MARINE BIRDS AND MAMMALS Marine mammals and birds are important biological components of the region that includes the Pacific coast of the Californias and the Gulf of California. Like marine fish, marine mammals and seabirds ignore international boundaries and migrate between the territorial waters of Mexico and the United States. Indeed, concern for proper management of these species has led to a number of binational and international treaties. Marine mammals and seabirds are economically important as significant consumers of fisheries resources. As "charismatic megafauna," they are the focus of considerable public concern and form the basis of a valuable ecotourism industry in both countries. For example, a substantial tourist industry centers around the breeding of the California gray whale in coastal lagoons of Baja California (Scammons Lagoon [Laguna Ojo de Liebre], Magdalena Bay, and San Ignacio), as well as the breeding rookeries of boobies, terns, and pelicans on the offshore islands in the Gulf of California (Velarde and Anderson, 1994). More importantly, many species of marine mammals and seabirds utilize and require marine habitats of both countries. Several species that have been extirpated or are endangered in the United States maintain significant populations in Baja California (historically, the brown pelican and elephant seal are examples; current examples include Xantu's murrelet and osprey). Fortunately, there is a history of collaboration between individual U.S. and Mexican marine mammal and seabird biologists. However, cooperative studies typically are limited to isolated groups or individuals and have not been integrated with concurrent investigations of biophysical oceanographic processes that are known to be critical in determining the abundance, distribution, and population dynamics of these top predators.
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY Water quality and quantity are important binational issues because removal of water from rivers such as the Colorado and the Rio Grande in the United States has a major impact in Mexican and U.S. coastal waters. The head of the Gulf of California has been transformed from a brackish delta to a highly saline environment because of freshwater removals from the Colorado River, endangering species such as the totoaba, a large sportfish that once flourished in gulf waters, and altering sediment input to the gulf. Inputs of polluted river water from the Rio Grande and the Tijuana Slough are detrimental to marine ecosystems and human health on both sides of the border. Effective management of these problems will require better research and monitoring, coupled with binational efforts to conduct such scientific activity in the geographic ranges within which natural processes occur, rather than confining studies of processes to national boundaries. Solving coastal pollution problems will also require the cooperation of terrestrial scientists. These environmental problems also must be addressed at a political level. OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT Both Mexico and the United States have extensively exploited oil and gas resources in their adjacent coastal zones off the coast of California and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf is particularly vulnerable to damage from oil and gas pollution because of its semienclosed nature and circulation patterns. Fortunately, apart from the IXTOC-1 oil well blowout in 1979, the Gulf of Mexico has suffered relatively few major oil spills. However, the onshore impacts of oil and gas development have been substantial in some areas of the United States (Rabalais, 1996) and Mexico (Botello et al., 1992). The oil and gas industry is a major force in the economies of coastal Texas and Louisiana in the United States (see NRC, 1996) and Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, and Campeche states in Mexico. The Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, and Campeche along the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent waters hold 96% of the nation's oil and gas production and related industrial activities (Vidal et al., 1994d). The Bay of Campeche contributes 80% of Mexico's crude oil production, and 90% of its oil and gas processing infrastructure is situated in the coastal zone of the Gulf of Mexico and its EEZ. Recent geophysical surveys conducted by Mexico have corroborated the existence of extensive oil deposits in deep waters. The combination of known and probable reserves places Mexico at the forefront of oil-producing nations. Continued production of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico will require focused efforts to protect associated coastal tidal wetlands, estuaries, and offshore ecosystems.
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together TOURISM AND DEVELOPMENT Coastlines of all three ocean areas considered in this report have been developed to some degree for tourism. Historically, favorable economic and cultural conditions led to the development of many Mexican coastal areas as major tourist resorts. This development is not entirely negative from an environmental perspective, because much of the tourism is based on clean waters and preserved marine environments and reefs. The challenge is to sustain both the development of the economic benefits of tourism and the pristine quality of the natural environment that attracts tourists. As mentioned earlier, there is otherwise relatively little residential development in Mexican coastal areas. Coastal areas of the United States are more developed for residential and commercial uses, and some areas are so developed that public access is difficult. BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY The marine areas discussed in this report span latitudes from 10 to 50°N, ranging from tropical to temperate zones. The diversity of life in coastal areas is threatened by the uses described above, except for some forms of ecotourism. As in the case of fisheries, Mexico and the United States have an important stake in cooperating to preserve marine biological diversity because the distributions of many marine species cross our common border and gene flow among populations are often necessary to preserve the genetic diversity and adaptability of species. Preservation of marine biodiversity is important for sustaining healthy marine ecosystems and could also contribute to the discovery of new natural products from marine organisms. COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT Both nations are interested in managing uses of their coastal areas, which include activities related to each of the concerns above. Unfortunately, there has been little cooperation in terms of coastal zone management because management of coastal areas depends critically on local environmental, social/cultural, and political conditions that may differ from those in some other local areas and in the neighboring country. The State of California has had a coastal zone management program since 1972 and has an approved plan under the U.S. Coastal Zone Management Program; Texas recently received approval of its plan. Information necessary for rational management of coastal areas in Mexico is severely lacking. Mexican coastal zones are relatively unpopulated, and the functioning of coastal ecosystems is poorly understood. Because of their great scientific and socioeconomic relevance for the future sustainable development of Mexico, it is imperative that coastal zones be studied and managed properly. Bilateral research in coastal zone science and management should help improve
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Building Ocean Science Partnerships: The United States and Mexico Working Together our knowledge and support the development of strategies for rational use of coastal areas. The foregoing considerations all have practical implications for governments in the United States and Mexico, but there are also important intellectual rationales for enhanced collaboration in fundamental marine science between Mexico and the United States. Few other areas of science are so intrinsically transborder and impossible to constrain logically to one side or the other of a man-made border. Whether probing the physical, chemical, and biological processes of the ecosystem that supports Pacific sardines or discovering the ecology surrounding such geological features of the Gulf of Mexico as hydrocarbon seeps, it is impossible to conduct intellectually thorough and definitive studies without including sites on both sides of the border. Consequently, in marine science as in few other areas of human activity, the fact of national interdependence is displayed in stark clarity. The United States and Mexico have dramatically different economies, histories, and cultural backgrounds. The use of collaborative binational approaches to address the intellectual challenges of marine sciences facing the nations would be a remarkable example of mutually beneficial cooperation between sovereign nations and an impressive, positive example to their own citizens as well as to the broader community of nations. It is hoped that this consensus report of the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias-National Research Council (AMC-NRC) Joint Working Group on Ocean Sciences will stimulate a long-term focused effort to improve collaboration between Mexican and U.S. ocean scientists for the advancement of fundamental knowledge and the practical benefit of both nations. The following chapters describe a set of exemplary binational science projects (Chapter 2), general actions that must be taken to pursue joint ocean science (Chapter 3), and recommendations for new ways of interacting across our common border (Chapter 4).
Representative terms from entire chapter: