The MIDORI Prize

The Prize Winners 2016

*Winner’s profile when a prize was won.

Alfonso Aguirre-Muñoz (Mexico)

Executive Director, Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C.


Receiving the MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity is a great honour, and I am proud to see our efforts to conserve and restore the islands of Mexico acknowledged in this way. I am deeply grateful to the AEON Environmental Foundation and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity for having selected me for this award.

The prize reinforces our enthusiasm and commitment to restore the natural environment—an activity that is so much needed, everywhere and at all scales. It also highlights the success of our interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach to conservation: we aim to integrate the natural and social sciences with environmental culture and art, local communities, private sector involvement, and the development of public policies. Our emphasis has been on tangible results, and the formation of a new generation of experienced leaders that can tackle the complex challenges facing our environment now and in the future.

The successful conservation and restoration of the Mexican islands is the result of two decades of a close and responsible collaboration between civil society and government agencies, including the Mexican Navy and the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources. The achievements add significantly to our national contribution to the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)—chiefly, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. To me, our organization and our partners, the MIDORI Prize confirms that the obligation with hope, and persistence, even in challenging circumstances, leads to concrete actions and recovers the dialogue and harmonic relationship between humans and nature.

Reasons for Awarding the Prize

Applying an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the natural and the social sciences, Dr. Alfonso Aguirre-Muñoz has been tirelessly working for four decades on the conservation and sustainable management of coasts, islands and seas, with emphasis on the abundant and very diverse Mexican insular ecosystems. His application of advanced scientific knowledge in favour of large-scale, strategic and tangible conservation and restoration actions makes his work unique and exemplary.

For 15 years Dr. Aguirre-Muñoz has built and served as the Executive Director of the Mexican civil society organization, Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C. (GECI), an organization with 100 skilled, specialized and dependable young professionals engaged in applied research, restoration of seabird populations and vegetation communities, eradication of invasive species, environmental education and outreach, island biosecurity, community development, public policies, and international cooperation.

Dr. Aguirre-Muñoz’s perseverance to achieve strong conservation outcomes has had significant impacts on island conservation not only for Mexico but also worldwide. Thanks to his leadership, 59 populations of invasive mammals were removed from 37 islands throughout Mexico. This represents the restoration of more than 50,000 hectares of unique insular habitat (including the protected areas in excess of 40,000 ha), with wide impacts for global biodiversity. These achievements are also the result of his abilities and positive attitude to collaborate with the most diverse partners, including federal government agencies, the Mexican Navy, local fishermen communities, international organizations, foreign governments, academic institutes and universities, and a broad network of donors.

His work on public policies, include studies that provided the foundation for the creation of two biosphere reserves by the Government of Mexico: Guadalupe Island and Baja California Pacific Islands. Thanks to that effort, all the Mexican islands are now protected. Very recently, he coordinated the integration, also as a contribution to the effort of federal government, of the successful nomination to UNESCO of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, “Mexican Galapagos”, as a World Heritage Site.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Aguirre-Muñoz proposed that federal coastal fringe along all of the Mexican coasts be legally established as conservation areas. This innovative tool is currently protecting hundreds of kilometers of the rich Mexican coasts. Overall, his achievements contribute to several of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

In view of these outstanding achievements, Dr. Alfonso Aguirre-Muñoz is fully deserving of the MIDORI Prize.

Biographical Summary
1957 Born in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico.
1980 B.Sc. in Oceanography. Marine Sciences Faculty, Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC).
1981 Postgraduate Diploma in Aquaculture, Individual Programme. Kagoshima University.
1993 Postgraduate Diploma in Foreign Trade. UABC.
1994 M.Sc. Coastal Oceanography, free courses. Marine Sciences Faculty, UABC.
1997 Postgraduate Diploma in Methodologies for Social Research, Culture and Communication. Jesuitic Iberoamerican University (UIA).
1997 Ph.D. Social Sciences: Regional Studies and Sustainable Development. The College of the Northern Frontier (Colef), Summa Cum Laude.
1975-1980 Research Associate and Instructor: History of the Earth, Marine Botany, Marine Invertebrates, Plankton Aquaculture and Physiology, Bivalves Ecophysiology and Bivalves Aquaculture. Marine Sciences Faculty and Oceanology Research Institute (IIO), Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC).
1982-1986 Northwest Regional Director for Planning and Technical Assistance. National Fisheries Bank. Finances Ministry, Federal Government.
1986-2002 Agromarinos, S.A. Family business. Bivalve aquaculture and seaweeds harvest.  Executive and Founder Director.
1986 to date Consultancy on environmental conservation and natural resources management, national and international: private companies, government agencies, academic institutions, and international organizations.
2002 to date Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C. Executive Director. Professionalized Civil Society Organization specialized in island conservation and restoration. 100 specialists. Collaboration with Mexico’s Federal Government, and other countries.
Record of Honors and Awards
1975-1980 Research Fellowships (contest), UABC.
1980 Scholarship (contest) from Japanese Government (JICA) for Individual Programme in Aquaculture, Kagoshima University.
1990-1994 Special Delegate and Honorary Member, Commission of the Californias, Mexico-US. Appointed by the Baja California State Governor.
1990-1995 National Vice-President (founder) of the Aquaculture Chapter. Fisheries and Aquaculture National Chamber.
1996 Research fellowship (contest), Project Rural Mexico, UCSD-Ford Foundation.
1997 Ph.D. Summa Cum Laude. The College of the Northern Frontier (Colef).
1997 President of the Board. Electoral Institute of the State of Baja California. Appointed by the State Congress, under consensus.
1998-2006 Board Director. Visión Ensenada 2025. Civil Society organization devoted to the sustainable development and quality of life in Ensenada’s municipality.
2000-2007 Founder member of the International Steering Committee. Baja California to Bering Sea Marine Protected Areas Tri-National Initiative: Canada, USA and Mexico.
2006-2012 Board President. Friends of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature.
2010 Member of the Jury for the National Conservation  Award 2010. Invited by the President of the Protected Areas National Commission (CONANP).
2008 to date Panel Member. Introduced Species National Advisory Committee. Biodiversity National Commission (CONABIO).
2014 Award (Prize) for Scientific Research on Biological Conservation. Por Amor al Planeta (Love for the Planet), VW Programme.
2015 Grant, as organization. Por el Planeta (contest). National Geographic Society and Televisa.
2015 Recognition by the Museum of History of Ensenada, the Society of the Ancient California, the History Archive of Ensenada, and Ensenada Municipality.
Related Website
More about Dr. Aguirre-Muñoz