To celebrate the start of the new Lunar Year, I thought a quick review of recent news and events would be appropriate.
The Baja 250 desert race was held in January this year instead of its traditional place in March. While the event was a qualified success, it did not bring the customary crowds.
In previous years, the event was seen as an ideal excuse for families to come with the racers to enjoy a weekend at the beach to sunbathe and frolic in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez. January is not a hospitable month for such activities. We hope that future races will be better planned, with an eye on school calendars and US long weekend holidays, to bring back our customary crowd.
January is also a month when we can expect red tides to occur in the Gulf as a consequence of the agricultural industries in the delta and the Yaqui Valley flushing the fields to prepare for the rotation of the crops. This January, the red tide was a significant one and it basically shut down the fishing and shrimp industry in this region and caused a lot of confusion during the Baja 250 race as to whether the fish was safe to eat. The various tourism, business and health spokesmen for the town and for Mexicali gave conflicting recommendations. Seafood and meat brought from Ensenada was in demand. A prohibition is still in effect on taking shellfish from the waters around San Felipe.
The great disruption in the fishing industry of this region, however, is still ahead. In a last-ditch effort to prevent the Vaquita dolphin from going extinct, all fishing with nets in the Northern Gulf is to be halted for two years beginning on March 1st.
Vaquita caught in a totoaba net 1985
Since the reproductive cycle for a female to produce one offspring is also around two years, this moratorium is not going to solve the problem. It will, however, give the communities involved a chance to assess what to do next. The tragic and immediate consequence, however, is that several hundred local fishing families will be deprived of a source of income and many others involved in the processing and marketing, boat and engine maintenance, and auxiliary services will also see a loss of income.
The tourism department estimates that 65,000 visitors came from California for the Valentines Day/Carnival celebrations last weekend. More than 75% of the economic benefit went to the Tijuana-Ensenada corridor where the various tourism promotion funds featured large parades and parties. Tourist attractions were choc-a-bloc and hotels in Ensenada were completely sold out. San Felipe was much, much, quieter.
The slowdown in the local economy is noticeable and along with this goes an increase in crime. Purse snatchings are increasing and theft of metal is on the rise. Yesterday, the electricity cables outside the Marina Resort were stolen, plunging the south end of San Felipe into darkness. The Commision Federal de Electricidad worked furiously to repair the damage before nightfall.
Linemen work to replace electric high voltage lines outside the Marina Resort (view looking south)
The State Secretary of Tourism has announced that the new Airport in Ensenada (ESE) which is shared with the military, will be able to support operations to relieve the Tijuana airport in times of bad weather.
También será una entrada de visitantes al Mar de Cortés, agregó, pues la terminal internacional de San Felipe es pequeña y no tiene las características para que arribe una aeronave de grandes dimensiones.”
The airport is seen as a main component in the strategic development of the region and will complement the increasing maritime cargo load now being experienced as US west coast ports reach saturation.
Air service is also expected to be inaugurated between Ensenada, San Felipe, Tijuana and Mexicali in the not-too-distant future.