Four new natural protected areas were declared by presidential decree yesterday, bringing to 91 million hectares the total of land and sea areas that have been designated for environmental conservation.
The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, whose creation was announced last week, was among four new protected areas that became official during a ceremony at a global biodiversity summit in Cancún.
The 5.75-million-hectare Caribbean reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula, and is designed to protect coastal wetlands, coral reefs and sea habitat.
The other three areas are:
The Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve, a 1.16-million-hectare area off the west coast of the Baja peninsula, is comprised of 21 islands and 97 islets that boast more endemic species per square meter than found in the Galapagos Islands, according to Mexican officials.
The Nature Conservancy, which collaborated with the Mexican government on creation of the three marine reserves, said the Pacific islands reserve will protect land and surrounding waters through multiple-use zoning. Fishing grounds on which local fishermen depend will also be protected, it said.
The Pacific Biosphere Reserve is a deep-sea ocean area consisting of 57.78 million hectares off the Pacific coast. The Nature Conservancy said mining and fishing activities will be allowed but only outside strictly protected core zones.
The reserve takes in coastal waters of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas.
The Sierra of Tamaulipas Reserve is 309,000 hectares in Tamaulipas state and home to five feline species in danger of extinction: the jaguar, puma, jaguarondi, oncilla and ocelot. The reserve designation is also intended to protect eight different watersheds.
The Nature Conservancy, which has worked in Mexico for more than 30 years, issued a statement today congratulating the Mexican government for its commitment to conserving marine habitats and fulfilling an international biodiversity target.
President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the decree declaring the new reserves at COP13, a biodiversity conference with representatives from 196 countries in attendance.