One of the Revillagigedo Islands, now a national park. One of the Revillagigedo Islands, to become a national park.

Islands to be a park but no hotels allowed

Government insists there will be no hotels but critics are wary

Four islands situated off the coast of Colima are set to become Mexico’s newest national park but the federal Environment Secretariat says that it will not allow the construction of hotels on the volcanic archipelago despite the new designation.

The head of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas said yesterday that the reclassification will enable a total fishing ban to be enforced around the Revillagigedo Islands, located between 720 and 970 kilometers west of Manzanillo.

“This project will benefit our ocean and all the marine species that know no political boundaries,” Alejandro del Mazo Maza said.

But beyond that assurance, some people have expressed concern that the change of designation from biosphere reserve to national park could lead to the building of hotels and other tourism infrastructure on the islands.

Octavio Aburto, a researcher at San Diego University in California, told the newspaper El Universal that tourism-related activities — that will be allowed under the new designation — could damage the zone’s unique flora and fauna.

Scientists from a range of fields have sent letters to the environment secretary to express their concerns and to seek a meeting with him, he said.

“Proposing a change of protection [status] to a national park could open the doors to urban and tourism development on the islands, contradicting the UNESCO World Heritage certification for the archipelago,” one of the letters stated.

The islands were added to the prestigious World Heritage List in July last year.

But the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) stressed that it would not allow the construction of hotels on the islands under any circumstances.

Instead it said that the new designation demonstrates a “clear will to guarantee in perpetuity the conservation of the biodiversity and ecosystems above all other interests.”

However, the federal agency did say that some ocean areas would be open to sustainable, non-extractive activities such as diving while on shore, and the construction of military and communication facilities in so-called buffer zones may be permitted if deemed necessary. A Navy base already operates on one of the islands.

Opponents of the re-designation fear that down the road, permissions could be extended to allow exploitation of the islands commercially and on a larger scale.

“We are afraid . . . the islands could become [another] Cancún, upsetting endemic species,” Aburto said.

Revillagigedo Islands

But Semarnat believes that Mexico’s conservation credentials will only be enhanced by the move.

“The Revillagigedo National Park will contribute to Mexico’s leadership on conservation since it joins countries that have created large protected marine areas that exclude commercial fishing like Chile, Australia, France and the United States, among others,” it said.

Covering a total area of 14.8 million hectares, the area will become Mexico’s largest marine national park and adds to a protected Pacific Ocean corridor that includes Ecuador’s famous Galápagos Islands.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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