The right-point rich surf community of Salina Cruz, Mexico was dealt a surprising blow recently when a plan was proposed for an industrial port that would steamroll right through surf spot Punta Conejo. The plan was developed by Asia-based urban consultancy agency, Surbana Jurong, as part of Mexico’s interoceanic corridor—a plan to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific for industrial purposes, much like the Panama Canal but with a series of ports and rails. The plan could be executed in as soon as 2 years.
At risk is not just Punta Conejo’s wave, but the mangroves, trees, plants, animals and the rest of the area’s ecosystem in the nearby Tehuantepec Isthmus may also become unwarranted casualties of the project. Previous plans for Mexico’s interoceanic corridor proposed expanding the already existent port in the town of Las Salinas, a plan with a much less destructive impact. Surbana Jurong proposed rerouting through Punta Conejo because it would cost less, according to local Gustavo Frey, owner of Punta Escondida Surf Camp/co-owner of Punta Conejo Resort.
“It's a lot harder to buy properties from the thousand-or-so guys that live there [Las Salinas] than it would be to just pay a couple landowners at Conejo,” Frey told Surfline. “So, the new administration decided to cancel that old port extension, and now they want to make the channel from the first jetty wedge by Conejo almost all the way to Punta Chivo. There was no ecological consideration, it was just about the money. We are sure that kind of construction that requires big containers for ships will destroy the some of the most well-known, consistent waves in the area, the consistency of the sandbars, and the whole ecosystem."
Environmental impact studies of Surbana Jurong’s plan have yet to be released.
Many locals are calling for an open and respectful dialogue with the Mexican Government to explore alternatives to the most recent proposal. Many are not opposed to the interoceanic corridor development, but believe there are options for it’s construction that will be less detrimental to the environment and the surf-tourism economy.
Locals are also asking for your support by contacting President López Obrador (who can be reached here) with respectful and thoughtful feelings about the development. There is also a push to build momentum via social media with #salvemospuntaconejo. You can stay updated with conservation efforts and strategy by following Save Punta Conejo’s Facebook page.
Luckily, there’s a precedent of how to save waves that are in the cross-hairs of development like Punta Conejo. Chilean Ramon Navarro was successful in lobbying support to save his beloved big-wave break of Punta de Lobos when it became threatened by establishing it as a World Surf Preserve. If there’s anyplace in the world that’s worthy of becoming another World Surf Preserve, it’s Salina Cruz’ stretch of premier, sand-bottomed right points.
Stay tuned as this story develops.