A commentary on San Felipe

BLANCA – the second tropical storm of the season

A new tropical storm, Blanca, has developed about 400 miles south-southwest of Zihuateneo, on the Mexican Pacific coast. The storm is rapidly intensifying and should become a hurricane later today. All indications are that this will be a major hurricane and will be influencing the southern tip of the Baja peninsular this coming weekend.

Tropical Storm BLANCA 060215

Meanwhile, Hurricane Andres is stalling about 900 miles west-southwest of Cabo San Lucas and is generating high surf along the Pacific coast of the peninsular. This storm is now passing over cooler waters and will lose strength over the next 2-3 days. However, the cloud field will send a lot of moisture in a northeasterly direction later this week. The combination of moisture from Andres and Blanca could cause heavy rain over southern Baja next week.


Start of the Pacific Hurricane Season

We just got through a very successful Memorial Day long weekend in San Felipe. The town was packed and all hotels were at 100% occupancy. Some merchants said that the business was better than Semana Santa!

Certainly a lot of money was spent in town by the visitors and many of them delayed their return to California to enjoy another day of perfect weather. The border lines of people waiting to cross at Calexico ranged from 2-4 hours at times!

Looking south, we see that the first tropical storm of the Pacific hurricane season, Andres, has formed about 800 miles southwest of the tip of the Baja peninsular. It is predicted to become a hurricane tonight or Friday morning and should be around 800 miles due west of Cabo San Lucas by next Tuesday, 2nd. June. It is unlikely that this storm will affect us in San Felipe although high cloud should start drifting over the northern Gulf by Sunday.

Tropical Storm ANDRES

This promises to be a very active season as a result of the strong El Niño that has formed in the equatorial Pacific. We watched the devastation that occurred last year in Cabo and areas as far north as Bahia de los Angeles. Stay vigilant!


Summer electricity rates go into effect

San Felipe residents have experienced a winter of exorbitant electricity bills. Now, for the next six months, we get a discount on the tariffs to enable us to turn on our air conditioners.

A small house with a single bedroom air conditioner can expect to consume around 30 kilowatt-hours per day, for a monthly bill of around 720 pesos (including IVA).  A large house with central air conditioning will use two to three times this and may consume 3000 kW-h during a month and receive a bill of 5300 pesos from the CFE.

Note that the cost is not linear! You can see the break points in the rates charged on the accompanying graph I made. Try to stay under 1200 kW-h/month (about 40 kW-h/day) for maximum savings.

Residential electricity costs (including IVA)

Residential electricity costs (including IVA)

Business customers do not get a discount on the rates so be understanding when restaurant owners invite you to dine outside on the patio to enjoy the balmy weather, or provide you with an electric fan to provide a cooling breeze.

A real live vaquita has been seen!

For the first time in two years a live vaquita has been seen swimming off the coast of San Felipe. This observation was made on 18th. April by researchers on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boat.

The total ban on gill net fishing in the northern Gulf has finally taken effect (April 28th) after many months of haggling with the various stakeholders. The primary reason for delay in implementing this urgent ban has been the economic interests of the fishermen dependent on  the waters of the Sea of Cortez for there livelihood. Shrimp season is now officially over and this is the big moneymaker for the fishermen.

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, visited San Felipe two weeks ago to formally announce the two year moratorium and to order the Mexican Navy to take charge of the effort. A narrative on that visit to San Felipe by the New York Times can be found here.

It is generally conceded that the moratorium will do little to increase the number of vaquita since it is believed that only around 25 females are still alive and the reproductive cycle to produce one calf is about two years. However, the fishing ban will be an enormous future benefit to the shrimp and fin-fish industry by allowing a major growth in the depleted stocks of the northern Gulf. It will also allow researchers time to collect more valid data using new acoustic techniques to detect the elusive vaquita, and for policy makers to come up with a new plan for sustainable harvesting of seafood.

Illegal gill net fishing for the giant totoaba with the 15 cm mesh used to capture shark has been the nemesis of the similarly sized vaquita. The totoaba swim bladder (“buche”) can fetch $10,000/kg in China where is is considered an aphrodisiacal delicacy and symbol of great affluence – particularly around the time of their New Year celebrations.

Vaquita drowned in shark gillnet

Vaquita drowned in shark gillnet


With so much money involved, cartels entered the market to receive, process and ship buche to China. Hundreds of buche have been seized at border crossings into California but we have to assume that many hundreds more actually get through intermingled with other fish products.


After near extinction of the species by overfishing in the decades up to the 1980’s, the breeding and restocking program instituted by UABC Ensenada under the direction of David Conal True is paying off. Many thousands of totoaba are now believed to be flourishing in the Gulf and making their migrations between the deep waters around the Midriff Islands and the breeding grounds in the shallow waters of the Colorado Delta.

We hope that there will be a change in the official policy on the fishing of the totoaba to allow line fishing, but not net fishing, now that the success of the breeding program has been demonstrated. For many years up to his death in 2009, Don Tony Reyes (Mr. San Felipe), pressed the authorities to allow sport fishermen to catch totoaba. This would revitalize the high-value sport fishing industry in San Felipe and bring significant new tourism to our region.

Hotels and Motels in San Felipe

There is a constant demand for a list of all hotels and motels in San Felipe so I am bringing you the latest data from the Secretary of Tourism below. Telephone numbers are for San Felipe area unless marked otherwise (dial + 52 prefix from the USA or other countries)

(686) 577-1240

Está invitado a hospedarse en el hermoso Hotel Costa Azul, junto a la playa en medio de la encantadora ciudad de San Felipe.
(686) 577-1548

En Hotel El Cortez ofrecemos a nuestros huéspedes las más bellas instalaciones y alojamientos en San Felipe.
(686) 577-1055 
USA  (760) 690-13-33 y 690-13-34
Hotel Hacienda coral cuenta con 42 Habitaciones bellamente decoradas, distribuidas de la siguiente manera
Un Concepto Familiar con el Servicio que Usted se Merece…!
En el Centro de San Felipe.
(686) 577-0483 – 84
El pintoresco Hotel Las Palmas cuenta con espectaculares vistas panorámicas del Mar de Cortés, y las montañas de Sierra Madre.
(686) 577-1333
San Felipe Marina Resort and Spa, el lugar preferido por las familias para pasar sus vacaciones en el norte de Baja California.
(686) 577-1455 – 01 800 291 5397 Toll Free: 1 800 6925 
Playa Del Paraíso dispone de 207 condominios residenciales de lujo en aproximadamente 10 hectáreas con 1.000 metros de frente de playa
(686) 577-0821 y 22
En Riviera Coral Hotel contamos con una de las vistas panorámicas al Mar de Cortez de mayor privilegio en la ciudad de San Felipe.
(686) 577-2604
(686) 577-1588
(686) 577- 2266
(686) 577-0314
A solo una cuadra del centro y del malecón del puerto.
(686) 577-1303 
(686) 577-2021
Posada del Sol esta ubicado en el centro de San Felipe, a un par de minutos de la playa y del malecón del puerto.
(686) 577 1727
San Felipe 686-123-7688
US Number 209-610-2449
(686) 577-1608
¿Cansado de la rutina diaria y de buscar alejarse de todo durante unos días? Entonces has llegado al lugar correcto.
(686) 576-0276 y 576-0230





The Year of the Goat

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 -totoaba net 1985

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)

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.”

Ensenada's airport

Ensenada’s airport

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.

Lost Dog!

Ginny writes from Campo Delicias:

Dallas, my little 49 pound, 12 year old black dog (without tags on) ran away from our home in Campo Delicias, KM 33.5 yesterday (Monday 16 February) when someone set off fireworks.  She is somewhat deaf but her name is Dallas and her tail curls up a little.  She is dainty.  Please let me find her.  Ginny 619 206 1299

lost dog at Campo Delicias

lost dog at Campo Delicias


Dead birds on the beaches – an ominous sign of gill net fishing

I have had a number of emails from people wondering about the number of dead sea birds washing up on the beaches around San Felipe. This has been a problem in previous years and it is becoming a big problem again. Most of the deaths are caused by the birds diving to steal the fish caught in the gill nets that are used by fishermen in the northern Gulf. The birds get caught in the nets and drown. They are discarded by the fishermen and the bodies wash up on the shore driven by the prevailing easterly winds. 

The birds, many of which will be the blue-footed Boobies, are not endangered but the major kills are a very bad sign for San Felipe. Gill net fishing has been prohibited for some time but it is still widely used and is causing havoc with other species.
Gill nets are being used to illegally catch the giant Totoaba (totuava – sometimes euphemistically referred to as “white sea-bass” in restaurants) whose swim bladder may be worth $10,000 dollars on the Chinese market. Other fish trapped in the nets are almost considered “bycatch”. Penalties for catching totoaba are very severe because of their endangered status and the result is that reporting the inadvertent catch of such a fish is not possible.
It is believed that many gill nets are now being used in the prohibited zone set aside to protect the critically endangered Vaquita porpoise. Less than 25 breeding females of this species are thought to exist and the northern Gulf of California is their only known habitat.

The Winter holidays draw to an end…

…and it will soon be time to get back to work. Most people do not realize that the “Christmas Season” in Mexico begins with the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on 12th December and does not end until the Dia de Reyes (Epiphany) on 6th. January. Indeed, many people at the executive level do not get back to work till Día de la Constitución (also Groundhog Day), by which time it is necessary to plan for Semana Santa.

To the 31 people who have written in over the Winter Holidays complaining that the tide calendars for 2015 are not posted…..,to the 18 people demanding to know what is happening with the fishing industry in San Felipe…, to the 12 people wanting me to book a hotel for them…to the myriad of people wanting to know what the phone number for the bank is, or the date of the triathlon, or the email address of the car parts shop by the Glorietta, or the price of dogfood in the pet store, or where to buy an alternator for a Cadillac, or whether it is practical to buy a bar and make money, or how to sign up for Mexican health insurance, or who is the best dentist in town, or how to find a schizophrenic son in Bahia de Los Angeles, or which motels offer rooms at under five dollars a day (!!! what planet are they living on?), or the cost of viagra at the pharmacy, or whether it is possible to send letters to California from the San Felipe post office (Duh!), or to send a timetable of the train service (!) between San Diego and San Felipe, or a directory of all the local shopping malls, or what local museums have exhibits that will interest teenagers… You have no idea of the crazy emails that I receive every day.

One thing at a time. Today you get the tide calendar for January!