Nature-based marine tourism in the Gulf of California and Baja California Peninsula: Economic benefits and key species

Andrés M. Cisneros-Montemayor*, Amanda Townsel, Claire M. Gonzales, Andrea R. Haas, Estrella E. Navarro-Holm, Teresa Salorio-Zuñiga, Andrew F. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Ecotourism can incentivize social and environmental benefits through marine conservation, in parallel with efforts to better manage fisheries, coastal development, and other human pressures. In Mexico's Gulf of California and Baja California Peninsula (GCBP), marine ecosystems support tourism activities in many communities, but to date there have been no region-wide studies to estimate their benefits or identify key species. Based on data collected in this study, each year nature-based marine tourism in the GCBP results in 896,000 visits, US$518 million in expenditures and at least 3,575 direct jobs from formal operations. In interviews with operators, over 40 species groups were named as important; sea lions, whale sharks, whales, and marlin were the highest ranked, highlighting the importance of ecosystem-wide health for nature-based tourism sustainability. Local employment and the ability to make economic and conservation goals compatible were noted by operators as significant opportunities provided by nature-based marine tourism; challenges included pollution and declines in ecosystem health, a lack of infrastructure, poor resource management policies, and high operating costs. As nature-based marine tourism expands, a wider transition to true ecotourism, a focus on equitable benefits and collaboration between stakeholders and a cross-scale and ecosystem approach to management will be vital for achieving potential sustainable social, ecological and economic benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-128
Number of pages18
JournalNatural Resources Forum
Issue number2
Early online date30 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Blue Economy
  • diving and snorkeling
  • ecosystem-based management
  • ecotourism
  • recreational fishing
  • whale and shark watching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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