WHEN OCTAVIO ABURTO FIRST DIVED into the sea surrounding the prison, he saw a nearly pristine underwater jungle. Pink and purple sea fans as large as a person sprouted out of coral-crusted boulders. A shimmering meadow of garden eels poked out of the seafloor. Huge schools of snappers, jacks, and reef fish swooped in and out of the reef. It was one of the most untouched reefs that Aburto has seen in his 20 years as a marine biologist working in the Gulf of California, and he would do anything he could to keep it that way.
For the past nine years, Aburto and his colleagues have been pushing for the Mexican government to protect the entire island archipelago that encompasses Isla María Madre before the region falls into environmental degradation from overfishing and wildlife tracking.