Boca de Camichin: Oysters and Jaguars

The People 
The north coast of Nayarit, Mexico, cradles a small town by the name of Boca de Camichin. Once a small-scale fishing village, the community of Camichin has taken a turn towards sustainability via oyster farming. In the 1970’s, the local community began farming in the San Jose estuary: they organized themselves into cooperatives and established environmentally responsible rules and goals. That thread strings on today, as Boca de Camichin has gone out of their way to renovate fishing gear and refine farming techniques for the betterment of the environment. But the community feel that they have the duty to protect their environment in other ways as well: recently, Boca de Camichin joined other indigenous communities to formally request that the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources not authorize any project that would impact Mexico’s mangroves. This statement came after the proposal of building a hydropowered dam along the San Jose River, which feeds into Boca de Camichin’s estuary, resulting in a drastic and irreversible impact to the community’s ecosystems and economy.
The Resource 
Adopted in 1976, the technique of oyster farming actually originated in Japan and arrived as an initiative named Project Pider Pesca. This technique strings together old oyster shells, separated by plastic tubes, to a raft and lays immersed in the water. During off-season, the San Jose River is chock full of oyster larvae, which then settle on these old shells and grow for 8 months. When it comes time to harvest, a single raft can weigh up to 6 tons! Tourists often stop by this town for a taste of these oysters, but that isn’t all. The mangrove jungle of the estuary, part of the National Wetlands Biosphere, also provides habitat for wild animals like the jaguar. Within Mexico, the large cat has lost over 40% of its territory and the remaining habitat is largely fragmented. Thus, these sightings of jaguars are quite the attraction for wildlife excursionists and  supports Boca de Camichin’s economy. 
The Future 
Unfortunately, the future can be widely unpredictable. In 2015, Hurricane Patricia ripped through Boca de Camichin, destroying their oyster rafts and their core livelihood. While hurricane warnings spared the lives of the community, destruction to the farms nonetheless greatly impacted Boca de Camichin. To aid in rebuilding the community, the Mexican government is giving funds largely targeted at reconstructing the oyster farms. On the other hand, camera traps have recently captured photographs of the resident jaguars, and this had made monitoring the population more feasible. Not only has there been a conservation victory, but it has favorably affected the local economy as well: the photographs have been widely publicized, and this further fuels the tourist industry of Boca de Camichin. As such, Camichin will need to prepare for this influx of tourism and continual defense of the jaguar’s habitat in the coming years. Regardless of the good or bad circumstances that comes their way, Boca de Camicin will continue their sustainable living, ever vocal and active about conserving their resources and region.
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