NaturArte Ecotourism Corridor: Conservation through Ecotourism in Morúa Estuary
By Cheryl Butner, CEDO
Between one of the driest deserts on Earth – the Sonoran Desert – and one of the richest seas – the Gulf of California – lie the estuaries of the Northern Gulf of California, areas unique in their great beauty and extraordinary biodiversity. Morúa Estuary, near Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, is a prime example of an ecosystem vital to the biology and socio-economic well-being of this region.
One of the few intact estuaries left in the Northern Gulf of California, Morúa is a habitat for a wide range of species of flora and fauna, and it serves as a “nursery” for commercial species like shrimp, mollusks, crabs, and fish, and provides migrating birds a place to rest and forage during their travels.
Great Blue Heron in Morúa Estuary
Over the past decade, Morúa Estuary has been facing a new and formidable threat: unsustainable development. Although the downturn in the economy has delayed plans for now, potential developers and buyers are still attracted by its natural beauty. Morúa forms a protected harbor close to the sea and there have been plans to build a golf course and major beachside resort on its shores, which would ultimately turn the estuary into a stagnant pool for irrigation and recreational use.
This type of use is not compatible with the long-term health of the ecosystem and would cause a destructive domino effect: the species within the estuary would die off, migratory birds would lose their place of rest, and the natural “nurseries” for fish and shrimp would no longer exist – ultimately affecting the local commercial fisheries for these species. Thus, with the degradation of estuaries like Morúa, the economy will suffer along with the area’s unique biodiversity.
In 2008 CEDO (Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans, or in Spanish, El Centro Intercultural de Estudios de Desiertos y Océanos) developed the NaturArte Ecotourism Corridor, an initiative to strengthen the ties between tourists and the local people. We support community groups in developing and marketing ecotourism services, and in building their organizational capacity for tourism.
Addressing the challenge of developing wetlands in a sustainable manner, the NaturArte Ecotourism Corridor initiative follows models of sustainable systems in order to expand the responsible use of natural resources.
How do we do it?
- Identify existing groups who are interested in ecotourism.
- Design ecotourism projects in collaboration with community groups.
- Seek human and economic resources to promote the projects.
- Establish social and environmental principles to guide the projects.
- Facilitate the ecotourism businesses’ commitment to support conservation.
- Offers training and support for marketing the projects as commercially viable products.
Our NaturArte ecotours are designed to promote conservation through education. We currently offer 4 ecotours in Morúa Estuary:
Oyster Experience: Become an oyster farmer for a day at Punta Roja, one of the local organic oyster farming cooperatives. Take an inside look at a sustainable maritime economy, meet the local oyster farmers and learn about their livelihood, while learning how to prepare typical seafood dishes and sampling the delicious harvest.
Local oyster farmer
Walking Tour: You will have the opportunity to see numerous species of graceful wading birds and spectacular sea birds foraging and flocking over the sand and mud flats. You will learn about Morúa’s formation and critical importance, while becoming an expert on the living things that depend on estuarine environments. You will also have a chance to meet and learn from members of the local community at Las Mujeres, a sustainable oyster-farming cooperative.
Kayak Tour: Kayak the Morúa Estuary in easy-to-manage single person boats. This is a great option for avid photographers and the best way to get close to birds. By kayak, you can experience areas that are inaccessible by foot, and you will enjoy becoming one with the environment as you paddle gently down the inter-tidal streams.
Kayaking in the Morúa Estuary
Birdwatching Tour: We cater to beginner and experienced birders, and travel to the best birding spots in the area. Whether you are looking for inland species or shore birds, our experienced bird guide will take you where you want to go to spot a diversity of species. We will reveal fascinating avian behaviors and social interactions, and point out details about the habitats that our birds depend on. There are literally hundreds of species of birds in our area, and while we do not guarantee any, we will do our best to look for them all!
>> To book a tour or ask questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (520) 320-5473 in the U.S. or (638) 382-0113 in Mexico.
The NaturArte project exemplifies the complex world of conservation, especially as it plays out in fragile ecosystems under tremendous pressure for economic growth. This is why we strive to share with our guests our knowledge and respect for this magical place. By visiting the estuary as ecotourists, our guests are justifying its preservation.
More About CEDO
Located in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, CEDO (Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans) works closely with visitors, local communities, and the government to understand and minimize human impact on local environments and species through research, education, and conservation. In 2010, CEDO is celebrating its 30th Anniversary of promoting conservation and sustainable use of the natural and cultural resources in the Northern Gulf of California and surrounding Sonoran Desert.