Protect Marine Ecosystems in Mexico

by Global Vision International Charitable Trust

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


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


The Mesoamerican barrier reef system (MBRS) extends over four countries, from the tip of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico down to Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world and the home to over 500 fish species as well as numerous endangered species such as the Loggerhead turtle, Nassau and goliath groupers and black coral. There are an estimated 2 million people directly linked to the MBRS coastal environments, depending on the health of the ecosystem for food, water, livelihoods and income. Its marine and coastal ecosystem provides the foundation for the Yucatan peninsulas multi-billion dollar tourism industry. These activities are continuing to increase in the area, placing varying degrees of pressure on the natural ecosystems of the MBRS.

Due to its importance, a program known as the synoptic monitoring program (SMP) was developed to assess the health of the reef. The MBRS SMP was designed as a standardized methodology to monitor changes in ecosystem health with the aim of improving the management of the coastal and marine resources.The Marine Conservation Expedition run by GVI in collaboration with Amigos de Sian Ka’an, is located in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve,Tulum, Mexico, in a place called Pez Maya.This programme trains volunteers on the SMP methodology in order to monitor fish, coral, algae and other sessile organisms in the reef .

Following learning a list of target species and the SMP methodology, volunteers are able to monitor within 100m of GPS marked sites. The SMP method Pez Maya uses involves belt transects. It is designed to measure the density and sizes of selected Caribbean key fish species, such as predators, herbivores, and “indicator” species, many of which are commercially exploited. For each transect, volunteers record the following information: recorder’s name, date, time of start of transect, Site name and GPS location, transect number


Cub print
Cub print

Jaguars have been practically eliminated from Mexican territory because of the destruction of their habitat. In spite of this, they are still found in remote areas where development is minimal, and even in areas near rural villages. Jaguars have suffered deliberate persecution as hunting trophies and as a perceived threat to cattle. They are also included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) so any international trade of this species, it’s parts (often in demand for Chinese traditional medicine) or it’s hunting is strictly prohibited.

Amigos de Sian Ka’an with the El Eden reserve are taking part in the Jaguar corridor initiative to try to help extend the current range of this vital predator. The territory of the female jaguar is about 25 and 40 km2 and it can lap with the territories of other females, but the animals avoid encountering each other if possible. The territories of male jaguars are twice as large.Jaguars are the largest predators in Tropical America, and they need enormous land extensions for their conservation. 

This November we have been lucky enough to observe jaguar prints on base and, just one kilometer from the base, a lucky staff member even sighted a female with two cubs. Whilst following the jaguar prints South along the beach, two staff members discovered the carcass of a Green Sea Turtle dragged into the undergrowth bordering the sand.

Acting quickly, CONANP in conjunction with Amigos de Sian Ka’an have set up five camera traps with the purpose of comparing the characteristics of these individuals with other sightings in the area, they have also confirmed that a jaguar was responsible for the death of the Green Sea Turtle found by the staff. Amigos de Sian Ka’an and CONAMP hope to investigate the range and prey of the Jaguars moving through the area. In Mexico there are sixteen areas that have been deemed important for the conservation of the species, eight of those are primary priority areas, like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, with confirmed jaguar populations present 


As the Marine turtle festival is coming soon we would like to share an article about environmental education and marine turtle conservation in Quintana Roo state. Thanks to Ana Mancera, Lluvia Soto and all the people involved in writing it. We hope you will enjoy it and get to know more about the work that is done in the Area!!

Environmental education is an instrument to raise awareness in the community regarding both global and local environmental threats, and the relationships and interactions between man and his environment. In addition, it helps serve to inform and remind us about the importance of all living beings and ecosystems on Earth, and to promote their use in a way that guarantees the sustainability and quality of life for current and future generations.

The State of Quintana Roo is the primary tourism destination in Mexico, visited annually by national and international tourists, who are attracted by the beauty of our beaches, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the presence of the third largest barrier reef system in the world, Mayan culture, and the native plants and animals found in its ecosystems.

Given these characteristics, and considering its 865 kilometers of coastline along which sea turtles nest, environmental education is of great importance. Through it, participants learn about the species of sea turtle found along our beaches; their biology (physical characteristics, feeding behaviors, reproductive cycles, etc.); their distribution, and their interactions with the coastal ecosystems.

This type of environmental education needs to be directed towards the diverse sectors found in our State:

1. The general population of Quintana Roo
2. Tourists, both national and foreign
3. Service providers (guides, tour operators, etc.) that lead sea turtle
observation activities either near the reefs or on beach walks at night
4. Operators of large and small hotels along the coast
5. Governmental agencies, which experience personnel changes with the
periodic changing of administrations

Through workshops, talks, public events, brochures and documentaries it is possible to explain the importance of the presence of sea turtles, what to do when we encounter them on the beach, and why we should avoid consuming sea turtle products. In addition, it can ideally help us in building a culture of conservation, in which green practices are applied for dealing with environmental problems, helping to promote sustainable development.


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Organization Information

Global Vision International Charitable Trust

Location: Exeter, Devon - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Kate Robey
St Albans, Herts United Kingdom

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