Researchers from the University of Veracruz and the Boca del Río Institute of Technology, supported by environmentalists and local fishermen, have discovered eight reefs with over 100 previously unknown reef structures off the coast of Veracruz.
University researcher Leonardo Ortiz Lozano said the reefs cover a surface area of 1,100 hectares from the municipality of Tamiahua to the Tecolutla river, and from the municipality of Alvarado to the mouth of the Papaloapan river.
He added that the biggest, dubbed Corazones Reef by its discoverers, is close to five kilometers long and 700 meters wide, making it the longest and northernmost reef in Mexico discovered to date.
The Los Gallos Reef and the Camaronera Reef also stand out for their ecosystems, which contain marine sponges, algae and some invertebrates. The scientist said that of the eight reefs, six are coral while two others are non-coral, which for the most part are not as diverse as other reefs.
“We are talking about reefs that are 18, 30 and 40 meters deep, which means that they are not as diverse as the reefs we are familiar with, such as the Sacrificios Reef and the Isla Verde Reef, all of those. But at the same time, they have a lot of sediment. They have a low diversity of coral and fishing prevents them from having a larger diversity of commercially important fish.”
The discovery of the reefs could also have major implications for the area’s commercial development. Ortiz Lozano explained that since the newly-discovered reefs have not yet been recognized by Mexican authorities, they are not protected and are at risk of being destroyed by oil and gas drilling and related activities in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The southern Texas-Tuxpan pipeline passes right over the most important reef we discovered, which is the Corazones Reef.”
Ximena Ramos Pedrueza, Gulf area director of the environmental organization Cemda, said the organization is pushing for the reefs to be recognized by the Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) by including them on maps of protected areas, which would grant the reefs some protection from major industry.