Collecting Fees

Jorge Soberon Mainero jsoberon at MIRANDA.ECOLOGIA.UNAM.MX
Wed Aug 2 16:57:34 CDT 1995

Michael Ivie recently wrote:
"Would you mind providing TAXACOM with an explaination of how it came to
be that a collecting permit costs foreigners (I have always assumed it
applies to all non-Mexicans?) an amount that exceeds the average monthly
salary of a Mexican worker?  Since you are familiar with the situation,
perhaps you can take a situation of much resentment and animosity and
turn it into a logical, non-threatening piece of information"

Here follows my explanation, based on my own experience and some talks to
informed persons. 1) The regulation we are  referring to (permit
requirements for scientific collecting in Mexico) was issued at a time
when the responsible gvt. officer was not a biologist and which
was overjealous in performing the tasks of protecting mexican biota.  2) At
that time, about two or three cases came to the attention of the
 authorities of commercial exporting of fauna disguised as scientific
collecting. Notorious were an american Ph.D. student that supported his
field costs by selling mexican fauna, and  a professional american
researcher that also exported specimens to sell (I know the names and
affiliations of the above, but I do not think it will be useful to the
purpose of this discussion to name them). There were also european
cases and also several more openly commercial examples. 3) The hundreds
of bona fide cases of scientific collecting simply were either not known
or ignored by that government officer, which I would like to stress,
was almost totally ignorant of common ecological and taxonomic
 field research practices. 4)The regulation was thus concieved as a way
of both protecting the biota and getting some part of what it was
regarded as mainly for-profit activities. 5) Soon after the legislation
began to be enforced (and we Mexicans also have to put up with a lot of
the red tape, although we are dispensed from payment), the research
institutions and the Mexican government started getting a lot of complaints
from foreign researchers. When, three years ago, the gvt. officer
responsible for the regulation was replaced by a professional ecologist,
he began a process to propose a proper law (not a mere administrative
regulation) of access to genetic resources. This was too ambitious, but
the process he started will at least end in an official Mexican Norm for
Scientific Collections, which has involved a lot of consultation with
local experts and also the input from many, mainly american, foreign
scientists and which is based on the assumption that most scientific
collecting in Mexico benefits the country, rather than on the "guilty
until proven otherwise" previous regulation.

In short, the current procedure is the overeaction of a non-professional
which was legitimately concerned by the illicit activities of a
few foreign academic free riders. Alas, I could not find why the precise
amount $700.00.

I hope this may be interesting to some of you netters.

Also, I have been requesting all the different regulations for the export
of specimens (different from the collecting...), transport of living
animals, etc. and soon I will have a very complete file of mexican
red tape useful to foreign taxonomist interested in collecting in Mexico.
It will be in Spanish but you shouldtTake this as encouragement to learn
what I would like to propose as the official language of biodiversity (!).

Regards to all.

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