Update from Zihuatanejo

We are about to depart from Zihuatanejo. We have spent the past two days exploring and reprovisioning here. The town is unlike any we have seen yet, it somehow has the humm of a busy city and the quaintness and relaxed vibe of a coastal town. The bay itself is beautiful; steep, jungle-clad hills (mostly brown from the dry season) tumble down to white beaches. Unfortunately, politics between the city and the federal government (and the tendency of money to line pockets instead of fix problems) has the left the city without a proper sewage treatment plant–so it gets dumped into the bay at the mouth of town. Old timers say only 25 years ago the water was clean.

While we were here, a group of pangueros, specifically the men who fish for tuna seasonally, held a protest of sorts on the water. We didn’t see it, but they were very guarded when talking about it. The protest was to bring attention to the massive, high tech tuna boats fishing in “international” waters–that then come in to Mexican waters to take fish, of course. These boats, allegedly Japanese, have sharp bows, fresh paint, and spotting helicopters that buzz around the ocean around us. We actually had one of these purse seiners, at least 125 feet long, bear down on us and come within a few hundred feet in open water as we sailed down the coast. It was weird and intimidating. Josh got on the radio and called them to ask if they had seen us, and they replied in English that they had spotters. When Josh asked why they were so close, we got no response, and they turned and headed out to sea (where they did a doughnut around another sailboat we could see a few miles away.) There was either an arrogance or cluelessness to it that made me feel that smallness and defiance of the local fishers even more strongly.

About the Author

In a first for ICWA, Jessica and her partner Josh Moman will conduct a seafaring Fellowship, exploring adaption to climate change in coastal communities in México, Central America and the Caribbean. Sailing the Pacific coast through the Panama canal and into the Caribbean on her 39-foot sailboat Oleada, Jessica will focus on how communities experience climate change impacts. Hazards such as erosion, storm surge, and the spread of disease can be consequences of sea level rise and sea temperature change, and Jessica will examine how these changes tear or build the social fabric. With her background as a research scientist, she has worked as a field biologist at the largest thermal solar plant in the world, mapped renewable energy development for 23 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa with the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, supported satellite-based forest mapping in the Andes-Amazon Region with the Carnegie Institution for Science, and authored multiple reports and user guides to translate science into digestible instruction. With a desire to better connect the science of climate change with stories on-the-ground, she plans to use her mapping experience to build vulnerability maps of the coast while gathering accounts of change and adaptation. Jessica was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to document climate impacts in México; she holds an Ecology degree from Brown University and an interdisciplinary MS from the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at UC Berkeley, where she also studied video journalism. By harnessing wind and sun to travel, Jessica hopes to access remote locations, share the ocean-bound experience of local communities, and listen to and document the stories of climate adaptation with words, images, and video.