In our last report, we shared information about the work our CORAL Reef Leaders are doing in Hawaii. In Mexico, these critical volunteers are actively working with local businesses to increase their environmental sustainability.
Over the last couple of years, CORAL, with the help of our Leaders, has educated nearly all of the marine tourism operators on the island of Cozumel—that's over 700 individuals! Now, we’re stepping up our efforts on the mainland. We’ve trained five new Leaders in the Cancun area, and they are already leading sustainable marine recreation workshops in key locations like Puerto Morelos, a dive destination just south of Cancun.
Stakeholders in Puerto Morelos, some of whom are pictured in the accompanying photo, have welcomed CORAL’s help to improve their sustainability. We have already reached more than fifty of the two hundred tour guides who work in the town’s national marine park, and we plan to educate the remaining guides about sustainable marine recreation practices in the next few months.
Why is this important for coral reefs? In March of 2011, President Felipe Calderón announced official plans to drive an additional twenty-five million tourists to Mexico over the next seven years. As one of the country’s most important tourism draws, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef off the coast of Mexico will face significant impacts from this edict—especially because tourism is already cited as one of the top contributors to poor reef health in the area. Ironically, the push to expand tourism could degrade the very attraction that tourists come to experience.
By working with tourism operators, we are helping to ensure that these visitors have a much reduced impact on the ecosystem and that Mexico's reefs—and the communities that depend on them for their livelihoods—thrive for generations to come.
Thank you for your support of our work in Mexico, and in other locations around the world. And best "fishes" from all of us at CORAL for a wonderful holiday season.
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Asst. Director of Development