Coral reefs off Cozumel that were closed to the public for conservation purposes in September will be reopened for recreational activities.
The Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) announced that the Palancar and Colombia reefs in the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park in Quintana Roo will be open from December 15 to March 31.
The reefs were closed to the public due to white band disease, which kills the coral.
The park’s El Cielo reef will remain closed until March 31, as it is a feeding and breeding ground for young fish and larvae that interact with the neighboring reefs, protecting and conserving the marine life in them.
A third stage in Conanp’s conservation strategy will begin in April, when the reefs will be closed intermittently to give them breaks from human activity.
“The conservation strategy will be strengthened through the work of collaborative networks and community vigilance,” said the department in a press release.
Academics on Conanp’s advisory council expressed the importance of constant biological monitoring of the reefs, the results of which will allow the department to adapt and improve its conservation actions.
“It should be noted that the proposed strategies can change depending on the conditions of the area . . . In this sense, we ask visitors to Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park to promote good tourism practices for the benefit of the reefs,” it added.
First detected in Florida in 2014, white band disease made its way to the reefs of Quintana Roo in 2018, and experts have since observed its rapid advance through the whole Mesoamerican Reef System.
It is attributed to poor water quality caused by lack of drainage and an excess of nutrients produced by the decomposition of sargassum.
The use of sunblock, overfishing and climate change are also factors.