Much of Mexico's Caribbean coast is to become a protected area. Much of Mexico's Caribbean coast is to become a protected area.

New protected area to be Mexico’s biggest

Caribbean reserve takes in 5.7 million hectares

The Mexican government will announce Monday the creation of a biosphere reserve that will be the country’s largest natural protected area at more than 5.7 million hectares.

The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve will take in virtually the entire coast of the state of Quintana Roo and include the municipalities of Isla Mujeres, Benito Juárez, Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad, Cozumel, Tulum, Bacalar and Othón P. Blanco.

The newspaper El Universal reported yesterday that President Enrique Peña Nieto will announce the reserve’s creation on Monday at the opening of COP13, the global biodiversity summit, which is being held in Cancún.

The new reserve consists of six core zones comprised of 1.9 million hectares; the remainder of the area is considered a buffer zone. It will bring the total of protected areas in Mexico to 30 million hectares.

Close to 1,900 species of flora and fauna, 500 species of fish and 86 species of coral inhabit the area of the biosphere. The marine portion of the reserve represents an area of over 5.7 million hectares while that which is on land covers 28,589 hectares.

“The Mexican Caribbean is characterized by diverse habitats and ecosystems,” said the federal government in a statement. “On land there are different kinds of tropical rainforests. Closer to the coast there are sand dunes, lagoons, floodplains and  mangrove swamps. At sea, seagrass meadows and coral reef are predominant.”

The Natural Protected Areas Commission, or Conanp, will be in charge of the administration, handling and preservation efforts, while the Navy will enforce the preservation of the reserve.

The Environment Secretariat, Semarnat, regards intense traffic of cruise and cargo ships, the damage caused to reefs by inexpert divers, fuel spills and illegal settlements as threats to the area.

It says the area’s new status will prevent the exploration and exploitation of petroleum and serve as a mechanism to protect the Mexican portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

Semarnat chief Rafael Pacciano Alamán said funding sources have been identified to finance operations and the maintenance of the area, a cost estimated at 130 million pesos annually.

One source of funding for protecting Mexico’s protected areas is the government of Germany, which has indicated it will help out with as much as US $10 million, said Conanp.

Source: Reforma (sp), El Universal (sp)

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