On February 16th, 2013 Grupo Cleofas held a meeting at the home of Larry and Christine Schaub on Parcel 27 Hollister Ranch, Gaviota, California. The purpose of the meeting was to define the planned collaborative efforts of Grupo Cleofas, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Chris Malloy of Patagonia as pertains to a scientific expedition for continued research and preservation of the Tres Marias Archipelago off the coast of Nayarit, Mexico. In attendance were past supporters and others interested in supporting Grupo Cleofas and Scripps efforts, including science teachers from two private schools in Santa Barbara (Anacapa School and Providence Hall).
The meeting began by the Director of Grupo Cleofas, Greg Alker introducing the speakers (Dr. Brad Erisman and Chris Malloy) and gave a brief history of Grupo Cleofas and its past achievements over the last 10 years in the realm of island conservation. Mr. Alker went on to explain the planned three way collaborative between Grupo Cleofas, Scripps, and Chris Malloy of Patagonia relative to the planned upcoming 6 month scientific expedition at the Tres Marias. In brief Mr. Alker outlined Grupo Cleofas’ role was to provide funding for the vessel Royal Pelagic as logistical support for Scripps scientists. Scripps role is to assemble the multi-disciplinary Mexican and American scientific teams in order to execute the exhaustive studies and disseminate research data to US and Mexican Institutions with the end goal of further awareness and protection of the Tres Marias. Chris Malloys’/Patagonias’ role would be to direct and produce a film documenting the expedition using underwater footage provided by Scripps and footage shot on location by Malloy and his crew.
Mr. Alker went on to specifically itemize the goals of the expedition as follows:
- To allow Scripps scientists to continue research of the Tres Marias that began in November 2010 including re-visiting the 33 sites already explored for seasonal comparison.
- To explore new sites deemed important as per marine geographic surveys to be determined at the onset of the expedition for the purpose of cataloging existing and possible new species.
- To retrieve data from satellite tracking buoys that were deployed in 2010 to track and map movements of pelagic species as they migrate from the south through the Northeastern Pacific.
- To deploy up to five new satellite tracking stations in and around the Tres Marias. Tracking stations will be funded by Scripps and/or Scripps supporters.
- Implement a 6 month tagging program using Royal Pelagic and its accessory vessels. This program will be on-going throughout the entire 6 month period (supervised by Scripps researchers at all times) and as stated by Dr. Erisman, “will fill in the gaps in knowledge of these pelagic species (sharks, tuna, marlin, oceanic manta, sailfish etc.) as they move through the Tres Marias, which up to now (because of lack of data) has been a complete void in our data base.”
- To make a film documenting this incredibly unique and important expedition for the purpose of increased awareness, preservation, and protection of this world treasure….similar in scope and importance to the Galapagos.
- To allow supporters of the project and opportunity to participate in the project by being part of the tagging program or assisting scientists on board the Royal Pelagic. This opportunity for supporters is also intended to increase awareness by word of mouth accounts during and after the expedition.
After a brief discussion of the above bullet points we touched on the issue of access permitting and timing. Dr Erisman said that permits would be a matter of two weeks and their teams could be ready for departure as early as April 15, 2013 assuming we had the necessary funding in hand.
At that point Dr. Erisman began his video presentation which highlighted Scripps role in the Gulf of California, also outlining their collaboration with the Mexican Government at the highest political levels, specifically personal relations with Mexicos equivelant of the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Public Safety, Secretary of the Navy, and Environmental Protection Agency. The video presentation focused on a restoration project in Baja California known as Cabo Pulmo and included amazing footage of that reef. He explained that 12 years ago this reef habitat had been almost completely destroyed by over fishing and was devoid of life, however through Scripps partner organization, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC) and “buy in/participation” by local families the reef now has completely recovered and has been recognized as the largest marine restoration recovery success worldwide. Dr. Erisman went on to explain the unique nature and almost miraculous preservation of the Tres Marias due to the 12 nautical mile restricted area. Following the Cabo Pulmo success Scripps had targeted the Tres Marias… not as a “restoration” project, but a “preservation” project utilizing the same scientific research to establish a baseline from which to measure improvement or degradation of the marine environment. Dr. Erisman assured those in attendance that Scripps was NOT in the business of “doing science in a vacuum,” which is to say that the purpose their research has never been to fill volumes of dust covered reports archived in a museum somewhere, but is intended to practically facilitate the preservation, conservation and restoration of the marine environment.
After a question and answer period, Chris Malloy introduced himself and briefly outlined his past achievements as an “environmental film maker” siting the film “180 South” and also a new film just completed called “Groundswell.” Chris explained his passion for the ocean and the importance of visual media as it is the most efficient way to increase awareness and make “even people living hundreds of miles from the ocean have a sense of connectivity…..as marine and terrestrial environments are inseparable. Chris conveyed his awareness of and commitment to the project and will be “on board” when the ship sets sail. After a few more minutes of question and answer the presentation ended and lunch was served.
At this time we are finally ready to initiate the project. If you have received this meeting summary we are now prepared to accept donations. Please keep in mind that the total budget for the 6 month project is $360,000 ($60,000 per month). This is 100% of the actual operating cost of the vessel. All donations to Grupo Cleofas are tax deductible and will be passed through to fund the operation of the vessel. It is extremely important that we know immediately 1) the amount of your donation and 2) whether or not you will be participating in the project (ie. planning to be on board the vessel for the fish tagging operation or assisting scientists), and if so, the number of people and desired dates. Time is of the essence as prime weather, water visibility and pelagic species migration begins around April 15th, which is our target launch date.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the project further, please don’t hesitate to call 805 567 1414 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Director, Grupo Cleofas