A Proposed Project Could Mute Salina Cruz’s World Class Waves
Punta Conejo makes its way onto the endangered list.
Another day, another endangered surf spot. And, again surfers are being called to arms as an irreplaceable wave stares down the barrel of possible development.
This time, Punta Conejo and Playa Brasil on the Salina Cruz coast in Mexico are threatened by the proposed construction of a new port project.
“Over the weekend, the President of Mexico came to Salina Cruz and unveiled the government’s plan for a new large port expansion project that threatens to disrupt and even destroy the surf break at Punta Conejo,” reports Uriel Camacho, a Mexican surf pioneer and operator of guided trips to the area via Oaxcasoul.com.
According to Camacho, locals in the area were notified of the plans only ten days prior to the arrival of the President.
“The news, it was like a bomb was dropped on us,” Camacho said when he spoke with Stab.
Details of the project remain murky at this time. Camacho has a meeting this Friday with the President of the Salina Cruz Port to hopefully gain some clarity on the situation. There will also be a representative for the fishermen of the area, a marine biologist, a community elder, as well as representatives from the local surf community and surf camp businesses at the meeting.
“It’s the first meeting we’ll have and we hope to learn a lot more and express our concerns,” Camacho said.
There’s already a port in Salina Cruz. This project would be 10km away and would develop the ecologically sensitive estuary at Playa Brasil.
“We don’t have very much information at this time, so we’re hoping to get a better picture of what’s going on and where they’re at with the plans,” Camacho explained. “We come in peace and love. We understand that development in this area would be a good thing and it would bring jobs to a lot of people that really need them, we’re just saying don’t build the port in the lagoon at Playa Brasil. Build it five kilometers to the east where there are no mangroves and salt flats.”
News sources report that the port is part of a $150-million larger infrastructure development project the Mexican government is considering that would connect the Isthmus of Tehuantepec between Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, essentially creating an overland version of the Panama Canal. The Singapore government has also reportedly signed a contract to collaborate on a rail system that would get goods from the Pacific to the Atlantic quickly — although it currently takes trucks three hours to make the trip.
“The reality is that the wave at Conejo is so damn good it is priceless! In fact, that wave is the nexus of many new and thriving tourist businesses; Conejo is building the dreams and hopes of many local business owners and their families,” Camacho adds. “We must do all we can to try and stop and/or modify the project so that this pristine and totally unique natural setting be protected for the future generations. We are committed to fight this plan and would ask anyone who would like to assist contact us. We would like to make this area a designated nature preserve area and keep it a natural setting for all to enjoy.”
One model Camacho and the Punta Conejo model could look to is Punta De Lobos in Chile. In 2017, big-wave surfer and Chilean sports icon Ramon Navarro spearheaded an effort to purchase the land at Punta De Lobos, subsequently sparing it from development. Nearly $1 million was raised in the successful campaign and Punta De Lobos was designated a World Surfing Reserve on November 16, 2017.
Over the years there have been numerous economic impact studies in regards to how a world-class surf spot can transform local economies. For example, a 2009 study by Save The Waves found that Mavericks brings in over $24 million a year to the local economy. In 2012, the Surfrider Foundation found that Trestles brings approximately $8 – $13 million a year.
Ever since the Salina Cruz area exploded onto the international surf radar with the 2006 Rip Curl Search contest at Barra De La Cruz it’s been heavily mined by pointbreak-hungry surfers. Now it’s time to pay it forward and help protect one of Mexico’s most vital surf zones.
Stab will have more information and updates after the meeting on Friday.
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