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Mexico bans 'shark tourism' at Baja California great white hotspot

PIX Now -- Wednesday morning headlines from the KPIX newsroom
PIX Now -- Wednesday morning headlines from the KPIX newsroom 10:39

Mexico has banned shark-related tourism activities at a popular Pacific Ocean destination.

Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja California is a hotspot for great white sharks, with cage diving, sport fishing and "shark watching" from pleasure boats among the activities on offer in the area.

Now, though, the Mexican government has opted to block shark-related activities and protect the sharks within the Isla Guadalupe Biosphere Reserve, which includes the island, according to reporting from CNN affiliate TV Azteca.

This decision effectively ends the once-busy Guadalupe Island tourism economy and impacts tour and charter companies that offer expeditions to the area, many of which are based in San Diego, California, just north of the border.

The Mexican government cited cage diving experiences as particularly harmful, saying it was common practice for companies to put bait or other "attractants" in the water to give guests a more thrilling underwater experience.

Drones have also been banned, except in limited cases where they are used to monitor plant and animal activity in the reserve.

Still, some tour outfitters are keeping their hopes up that the decision may not be permanent.

Nautilus Dive Adventures, a Canada-based diving tourism company, is one of those hoping to return to Guadalupe Island.

"The great white shark national park at Guadalupe island will reopen," the company posted in a message on its website.

"It might be tomorrow or it might be in five years time. A power-hungry NGO was able to reach into government and facilitate the shutdown. It won't last."

The company did not name the NGO it believes was behind the tourism restrictions.

Great whites are considered a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is one classification level short of being endangered.

The goal of the biosphere isn't just to protect a shark habitat, though. Bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and the Guadalupe Island fur seal also call the area home.

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