“I never intended to become a lawyer,” Fernando told me.

ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox with Fernando Ochoa, and pelicans, in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2014.

ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox with Fernando Ochoa, and pelicans, in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2014.

As a child, Fernando read a marine mammal encyclopedia and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. His father persuaded him that law was a practical tool and besides, Mexico City was far from the ocean.

After a few years at a private firm, Fernando secured a job with ProNatura, providing legal advice about conservation instruments for private lands. One day, Fernando’s boss mentioned plans for a marina in Bahia de los Angeles which would have spelled death for the whale shark population in that area. ProNatura does excellent work in private lands conservation, but fighting this marina was not a part of their mission.

With ProNatura’s support and encouragement, Fernando founded Environmental Defense Northwest, or DAN by its Spanish acronym, to take on the case. Only after the battle began did they learn that the marina was step one of the enormous Escalera Nautica project — a series of marinas and ports that would have industrialized the Baja California peninsula and radically altered this world-class landscape, devastating the marine mammals that migrate up and down this coast.

DAN stopped the marina, and the phone has not stopped ringing since. DAN will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, and now has a staff of eight and a full docket.

In a globalized world, the Baja Peninsula is ideally situated for developments of all kinds, and the pressure is relentless. Among their projects, DAN is an integral part of the multi-faceted, coordinated campaign to preserve Cabo Pulmo, a biological wonderland off Baja California Sur’s southeast tip. Cabo Pulmo faces recurring threats from big resort developers.

“I’m glad I have these legal tools, and that we’re winning,” says Fernando, who lingers over a used copy of the marine mammal encyclopedia which he recently found for home.

When he’s not saving marine mammals and their habitat, Fernando is a skilled photographer, and loves teaching his 3-year-old, Constanza, world capitals and counting to 10 in different languages.

Fernando is a valued member of the worldwide ELAW network.
We applaud his good work!

Lori Maddox
Associate Director