Protect Marine Ecosystems in Mexico

Mar 11, 2014

Recent sightings in Pez Maya

Dear Supporter,

We’ve had some interesting sightings out on the reef this past month,  including a sighting of a large Loggerhead turtle, who when discovered came trundling out of its hidey hole to plod away in a hilariously cumbersome manner.  Just today, a 2.5m crocodile was spotted at the bridge to the entrance of the lagoon behind the GVI camp at Pez Maya. The GVI Mexico team have also seen gray nurse sharks and hawksbill turtles along with many lionfish.

The invasion of lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, into the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea is not only one of the most rapid in marine history but also having extremely detrimental effects to local species and ecosystems. While in their native habitat, lionfish breed seasonally, invasive lionfish in the Atlantic have been documented breeding all-year round. Lionfish are also generalist carnivores that can consume over 70 species of fish, up to half their own body length, including commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important species6. On heavily invaded sites, lionfish consume native fish at unsustainable rates. As such, food competition can also lead to depleting food sources for native carnivores. The data collected on this project is very useful for future planning of local control efforts and will hopefully be used to co-ordinate our future lionfish control efforts which, if implemented well, can control local populations and even generate income for local communities.

Thank you for continuing to support this project.

All the best

GVI Mexico

Dec 30, 2013

The Importance of Fish Diversity at Pedro Paila

Merry Christmas from GVI Mexico!

This month we have implemented the Synoptic Monitoring Program (SMP) in order to complete the data for one of our monitoring sites; Pedro Paila 5m. The execution of the SMP not only contributes to our base goal of continuing to gather data in a standardized format over a continuous period of time, but the data itself highlights the presence of key fish species present in the reef ecosystem. The presence of these fish species indicates the overall healthiness of the reef, and their attendance is a good sign. The most common species recorded such as the surgeonfish, are of great importance as they feed from algae, large numbers of surgeonfish on the reef help controlling the algae which are competing with the coral for space.


A healthy reef is made up of many components that work together to create a complicated and delicate balance.  When monitoring the sites at Pez Maya, we study four main groups that highlight target species that are directly affecting how healthy a reef is. These groups are: adult fish species, juvenile fish species, coral species and coral diseases, and the composition and sessile invertebrates of the benthic zone.  The data gathered about these four modules help us see a window into the reef life and health. 

These species are very important in a reef system. They have many roles, like the surgeonfish which are herbivores and planktivores.  This means they keep the thick filaments and leafy algae from overgrowing the corals. Surgeonfish are also fast growing, so they can reproduce quickly and thus are often large populations. They tend to deposit feces in the nooks and crannies where they hide which helps coral diversity and growth.  

Another species, the wrasse, feeds on the parasites found on other fish as well as purifying the wounds of injured ones. Initial phase blue head wrasses are responsible for 10% of the cleaning activities on Caribbean reefs. Through their feeding, wrasse help the fish stock stay healthy. The large number of juvenile damselfish recorded is very encouraging as it means that there are many fish to clean.

Damselfish, on the other hand, encourage algae growth through the gardens they grow in the coral. They are also popular aquarium fish due to their bright colors, and often times the fishing methods used to extract them is quite harmful to the reef.  There were also a high number of parrotfish juveniles recorded at Pedro Paila 5m.

Parrotfish have very strong teeth that they use to grasp algae from dead coral, ingesting both dead coral skeleton and the algae. Their strong stomach then grinds the reef structure, or calcium carbonate, into a fine dust, which settles as sediment. On the other hand, the Butterflyfishes have a very diverse food range. They eat anthozoids, zooanthids, tubeworms, small crustaceans and shrimp.  Such a large sampling of prey means the Butterflyfishes can survive and thrive in many different environments.

All in all, the fish on the reef at Pedro Paila 5m are a complicated network of predator, grazers, cleaner fish and omnivores. Each species affects the health of the reef in different ways, and we are happy to add this phases completed data to all of the past years information in order to show the condition of the reef. Our continuous data entry also helps fulfill the Millennium Goal of environmental sustainability because it can be used to show why the reef is healthy at certain times and what effect the outside environment is having on the reef.  This information can lead groups to make changes about the management of the reserve, the reef, and it helps to ensure humans have as little negative effect on the reefs as possible.

Thank you for continuing to support this project in 2013 and we hope to see you next year! 

GVI Mexico


Dec 3, 2013

International Coastal Cleanup Day

Dear Supporter,

For the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal cleanup day, Pez Maya cleaned a ninety meter stretch of the San Juan Beach. The San Juan Beach is an important turtle nesting site and we collected 329kgs of debris. This achievement contributed to our base’s long term goal of raising awareness about environmental issues and our more localised goal of continuing to undertake beach cleans, helping to create to a healthier ocean.

One of the most important objectives of GVI is to create long term sustainable conservation within our own sphere of influence and within the local community. We at Pez Maya do this through many avenues, one of which is conducting weekly beach cleans and when the International Coastal Cleanup took place, it was the perfect opportunity to expand our work. Gathering together volunteers and staff, everyone traveled to the San Juan Beach, located inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and collected litter and debris for two and a half hours.

The San Juan beach is an important turtle nesting beach located an hour south of Pez Maya, in Tulum, Q. Roo Mexico. This four and a half kilometer stretch of beach is where we do our main turtle research and so far this year, we have protected 550 nests. The turtle is not only an integral part of the Meso-American Barrier Reef ecosystem, but it is also a crucial part of the local culture and tourism. For example, each year in Tulum they have a turtle festival in order to educate people on the importance of turtles and celebrate these ancient reptiles. This not only raises awareness but also brings in visitors and thus revenue for the locals. In the two and a half hours that we worked at San Juan, we amassed 329kgs of rubbish, which filled fifty bags and this was only over a 90 meter area. The waste collected was also very diverse. It ranged from toothbrushes to fishing line and we collected over fifteen hundred bottle caps (Figure below). According to the Ocean Conservancy most common item found in the International Beach Clean Up Day last year was cigarettes/cigarettes filters 1, however, we only found 1 at our beach this year. 

In 2012, more than half a million volunteers participated, collecting more than 10 million pounds of trash and covering a distance of nearly 18,000 miles.Therefore, for us at Pez Maya, this beach clean was very rewarding. Not only were we able to clean a portion of an important turtle nesting beach and accomplish satisfying and productive work, but also participated in a worldwide initiative that has been running for the last 25 years, and more importantly, it helped us contribute to the world’s Millennium Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability.

Thank you for continuing to support this project, the above could not be achieved without people like you!

All the best

Sophie Birkett

Top 6 items found
Top 6 items found


Sep 6, 2013

Increase in coral cover at monitoring site

Dear supporter,

I am excited to share with you some scientific research that has come out of this project. Pedro Paila is a spur and groove reef exhibiting an average depth of 10m located 3.94km north of Pez maya. Volunteers have been conducting surveys for the last eight years, providing information on coral species, diseases, benthic composition, presence of adult fish species and juvenile recruitment at the site. Pedro Paila has proven to be a favorite with many of our volunteers due to the beautiful corals and numerous fish species often seen here. Data collected by volunteers has shown that over the past eight years the percentage cover of hermatypic corals is increasing, with a noted increase present over the past three years 

Whilst instances of dark spot have increased over time, predominately recorded on Siderastrea siderea, a coral that appears to be increasingly susceptible to pathogenic diseases, records of fast spreading diseases such as Black Band, Red Band and white plague have dramatically decreased.

There has also been an increase in the number of Acanthuridae recorded at the site, which includes fish species such as the Blue Tang (the above figure), ocean surgeon fish and Doctor fish, which feed on macro-algae, this helps to increase the percentage cover of coral as the percentage cover of macro algae is reduced, thus reducing competition for space. Nutrients from fish excretion can also facilitate coral growth, which reduces the space for algae colonization, again leading to a shift towards a healthier coral reef 

We are very pleased to see these results and hope that continued research on this reef will lead to further insight into the future health of our reefs. 

Thank you as always for your support for this project

Kind regards

Sophie Birkett


Jun 12, 2013

The local protection of Least Terns

Least terns (Sternula antillarum) are a small migratory bird approximately 22 -24 cm long with a wing span of around 50cm. Least terns arrive to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve in early April and spend 3-5 months on the breeding grounds. The terns nest on open sandy or gravely areas near water, producing small burrows in the sand where they will lay a clutch of 1-3 eggs, the sight chosen for nesting must be of low vegetation and at a vantage point where it is possible to see the approach of oncoming predators, after 21-24 days the eggs hatch and in the following four weeks the chick will be able to fly .                                                                                                                               

The least tern is currently described as ´of least concern’ by the IUCN Red list (2013), however it has been noted that the population is in decrease due to an increase in development and storm surges destroying important nesting habitats (Birdlife international,Species factsheet: Sternula  antillarum, 2013).

 Due to the remote setting, the limited human disturbances and the plentiful food source the Pez Maya beach provides, the area has become an ideal breeding ground for the Least tern. In 2012 approximately 65 nests with a colony population of around 100 mature individuals were recorded. Last week volunteers and staff headed to the beach with painted signs, shovels and a lot of rope to mark and protect the Least tern nesting grounds. We hope that this season’s breeding will be a success with the help of the Pez Maya staff and volunteers and the Least Tern will return for many years to come.

Thank you again for supporting this project. Did you know about GlobalGiving's Bonus Day ? Today, on June 12th 2013 from 9am EST till funds run out, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations to this project at 50%. Please consider sharing our story and helping us to make an additional difference today. 

All the best

Sophie Birkett

GVI Charitable Trust manager


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Project Leader

Ross Deans

St Albans, Herts United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Protect Marine Ecosystems in Mexico