municipality of Loreto, with its very small surface area, is
almost completely made up of hills and mountains. The
municipality registers high solar energy values; Loreto also has
substantial fishery and tourism services associated with its
coastline and nearby islands, which are part of the Loreto Bay
National Marine Park and Gulf of California Islands National
Park. As for other natural resources, the municipality
registers very low values, with the possible exception of its
wind energy, although this resource has still to be definitively
assessed. Likewise, the valley of San Juan Londó experiences
degraded natural plant life, loss of agricultural areas,
erosion, and over-exploitation of soils.
Most current ecotourism
activities on the islands do not create direct benefits for
their conservation. This situation is exacerbated by private
boats and yachts that anchor in local bays without contributing
to park maintenance and upkeep. The presence of independent
tourists, and tourists accompanied by untrained guides,
generates a potential damage to the islands; this is worsened by
the presence of “pirate” companies that carry out trips without
the corresponding permits.
An example of this is
illicit recreational fishing activities, which are either
organized by a tourist service company or carried out
independently. This leads to a lack of knowledge of the
extractive capacity of the fleet and actual catch levels, which
means it is impossible to enforce effective regulatory measures
of fishing practices. Another problem (noted by commercial
fishermen) is that current legislation does not establish closed
season periods for recreational fishing activities, which means
species are caught during pregnancy.
The upcoming decision
regarding Loreto’s urban development plan will also have
substantial environmental impacts. If a proposed plan to bring
the population to 120,000 over the next 20 years is passed,
Loreto’s regulatory and enforcement networks will be severely
strained, in addition to the impacts on the local aquifer.
Recent groundwater modeling studies by the University of Arizona
have indicated that Loreto has less than 15 years before its
aquifers are empty or contaminated with saline intrusion at
current population levels.