A massive increase in tourist visits to the Marieta Islands, located a few kilometers off the coast of Nayarit, has triggered the closure of a popular beach.
Hidden Beach, also known as the Beach of Love, received 27,500 visitors in 2012. Last year, that number shot up to 127,372.
But the increase has taken its toll on the coral reefs and sea life, according to a study by the University of Guadalajara, which has prompted the National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) to close the beach.
Commission head Alejandro del Mazo Maza said the study estimated that the beach could support 625 visitors a day, a number that is easily exceeded during vacation periods such as Easter Week, which this year saw more than 2,500 visitors daily.
The visitors arrive with tour operators from both Nayarit and Jalisco, particularly Puerto Vallarta. As many as 250 boats per day were arriving during Easter Week this year, some carrying as many as 400 people.
The study found that coral is dying, garbage is being left behind and there is pollution from hydrocarbons.
Del Mazo Maza said the beach will close May 9, when a coral restoration program will begin along with a clean-up of the area and monitoring of sea life.
In addition, the Marieta Islands management plan will be reviewed and a decision made whether to reopen the popular Beach of Love.
The beach is not a natural feature of the islands but a bomb crater, formed when a bomb exploded after landing on the island during a military exercise. Other explosions on the Marietas have created caves and unusual rock formations.
The military activity triggered an international outcry led by scientist Jacques Cousteau in the late 1960s, after which the Mexican government designated the islands a national park.
The islands are popular not only for Hidden Beach but for the abundance of marine life found there.
Source: Reforma (sp)