Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!

by Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Save Mexico's Coral Reefs!
Yum Balam, Mexico
Yum Balam, Mexico

In Mexico, the threat of regressive action by ignoring a national decree to create protected areas would aggravate the situation of the region's coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove ecosystems in the face of the global climate crisis. In recent months AIDA has been working toward the protection of costal and marine ecosystems in Mexico through these main projects:

After years of AIDA’s advocacy work to protect the Veracruz Reef System from a port expansion project, defending the right to the healthy environment, and the application of the principles of precaution, non-regression, and progressiveness concerning coral reef ecosystems and their areas of influence, the National Court of Justice agreed to examine the existing claim over the authorized development of Veracruz New Port. The center argument in the legal claim has been that the construction is detrimental to the right to a healthy environment due to damage and risk to coral reef ecosystems. The Supreme Court indicated that this case can set a precedent for future cases where the right to a healthy environment can be compromised by development projects. AIDA is currently developing and updating the Amicus Curiae presented in 2018, along with our partner Earthjustice, this time focusing on the legal standing for any individual whose mission is to defend the right to a healthy environment. This time it will be presented before the highest National Court of Justice.

The Supreme Court of Justice ruled to protect the National Protected Area of Yum Balam - Quintana Roo. Developers challenged the site’s management program and wanted to build massive infrastructure within the wetland. In November 2020, AIDA, and our partner organization CEMDA filed an Amicus Curiae to the Court, in support of the National Commission on Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)’s attribution to regulate land uses within natural protected areas. AIDA provided arguments of climate justice, human rights, and international law to protect mangroves, seagrasses, and endemic biodiversity of Yum Balam, which were considered by the Court. Yum Balam is a place of great biodiversity and a carbon sink, storing the equivalent to carbon emissions of 9.4 million people per year. That is why the Constitutional Court’s decision used concepts such as sustainable development and transversality (meaning that environment is economy, health, and national development). We celebrate the protection Yum Balam as a key carbon sequestration ecosystem and look forward to other Latin American courts to imitate this decision.

The Mesoamerican Reef is the largest coral reef barrier in the western hemisphere and extends over 1,000 kilometers along the coastlines of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Uncontrolled and intense coastal development, anthropogenic interventions, and degradation of ecosystems over wide extensions of these coasts are among the greatest threats to the MAR region. While all four countries have made concerted efforts to manage, conserve, and protect coastal ecosystems, there has been a lack of transparency in the governance framework, poor implementation, a disconnect between management and research, and geopolitical differences, which have played a role in reducing management efficacy. We are developing a report to document and analyze opportunities to improve the protection of the MAR region, and this will of course include Mexico. We are collaborating with local, national, and international partners to collect ideas and compile the most promising opportunities from the legal perspective to revamp management and conservation in the MAR region, with a particular focus on policy and litigation strategies.

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Port of Veracruz
Port of Veracruz

Coral and rocky reefs lower the impacts of storms and hurricanes, as well as provide food and shelter to plants and animals. Healthy Reefs Initiative reports state that 60 percent of the coral reefs in the Mexican Caribbean are in either poor or critical condition. 

The Veracruz Reef system is the largest coral ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico, and in 1992 was declared by Mexico’s government as a Natural Protected Area In 2013, the government reduced the size of the Natural Protected Area to expand the port of Veracruz. This expansion of the port is endangering this Reef System

AIDA, alongside our partners Earthjustice and Centro México de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), is working toward a constitutional protection lawsuit in order to stop the construction of the Veracruz Port and  protect and preserve the Reef System since the construction will cause a significant amount of impact and harm to this ecosystem.

As part of our efforts to protect coral reef ecosystems,, we are working on a report on the current state of conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef. The report will include key recommendations for countries like Mexico on how to improve the management and conservation of this essential ecosystem. 

In  2018, Healthy Reefs Initiative wrote a letter to the Mexican government including  information outlined by AIDA on the importance of preserving its coral reefs, requesting that ten species of parrotfish be included in the nation’s list of protected species. As a continuation of this work, AIDA is actively working on a policy brief on recommendations on the adequate management of parrotfish species in the Baja California Sur region. These species of fish are a key part of the strategy to protect coral reefs because they feed on algae which otherwise deprive the coral of light and oxygen. Populations of parrotfish have declined drastically due to pollution and climate change, and their protection needs to be a priority.

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Protect Veracruz Reef System
Protect Veracruz Reef System

In Mexico, the threat of regressive action by ignoring a national decree to create protected areas would aggravate the situation of the region's coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove ecosystems in the face of the global climate crisis. In recent months AIDA has been working towards the protection of costal and marine ecosystems in Mexico through these main projects:

 After years of AIDA’s advocacy work to protect the Veracruz Reef System from a port expansion project, defending the right to the healthy environment and the application of the principles of precaution, non-regression, and progressiveness concerning coral reef ecosystems and their areas of influence, the National Court of Justice agreed to examine the existing claim over the authorized development of Veracruz New Port. The center argument in the legal claim has been that the construction is detrimental to the right to a healthy environment due to damage and risk to coral reef ecosystems. The Supreme Court indicated that this case can set a precedent for future cases where the right to a healthy environment can be compromised by development projects. AIDA is currently developing and updating the Amicus Curiae presented in 2018 to include the need to consider these violations, and this time it will be presented before the highest National Court of Justice.

To defend the National Protected Area of Yum Balam - Quintana Roo, AIDA filed a legal document (Amicus Curiae) before the National Supreme Court of Justice. We used international environmental law, human rights, and climate justice arguments to protect the National Park from the claims of the municipal government to open the area to unsustainable tourist developments. Yum Balam is a site of great biodiversity and a carbon sink, storing the equivalent to carbon emissions of 9.4 million people per year. It is a habitat for endangered species such as the red mangrove, sea turtles, about 90% of the endemic birds of the Yucatan Peninsula, and the whale shark. Yum Balam's importance is regional because 59% of the coverage of coastal wetlands in the Great Caribbean Sea Ecosystem has declined over the past 40 years.

Using the legal arguments we used to achieve the protection of 10 species of parrotfish in the Mexican Caribbean and other national legal experiences as part of the strategy to protect coral reefs, AIDA seeks to improve the regulation of herbivores fish species to protect the vulnerable coral reefs ecosystem in the Wider Caribbean Region. AIDA, as an observer and expert of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife, presented earlier this year, a recommendation to include 16 parrotfish species in the Annex III for the protection of vulnerable ecosystems. We will continue to advocate for this inclusion and for stronger protection measures for these key ecosystems in the region.

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Cabo Pulmo. Credito: Alejandro Olivera
Cabo Pulmo. Credito: Alejandro Olivera

AIDA continues the work to protect coral reefs and advocating for the conservation of herbivorous fish. During our participation in the last meeting of the Cabo Pulmo Vivo Coalition, we presented the progress made on the current status and threats to the Cabo Pulmo reef.

Alongside the representative of the Coalition, we attended the 18th Ordinary Session of the National Wetlands Committee (CNH), where the Technical Secretary of the CNH confirmed the receipt of a report sent by the Coalition and allies on the situation of the Cabo Pulmo national park and its zone of influence. And communicated that the Committee is reviewing the diagnosis of the ecological conditions in Cabo Pulmo and the effectiveness of the existing management. AIDA will continue to follow up on the outcomes of this report. 

In collaboration with local partners and universities in the Gulf of California, we are conducting a series of workshops attended by key actors from academia, NGOs, government, and fishermen. During these sessions we are presenting and exchanging the results of successful cases and legal tools for conservation, that can be used to achieve effective recommendations for management and conservation of coral reefs in Northwest Mexico. 

As part of our efforts to protect coral reefs we participated in the preparation of a press released for public news media in the region outlining the importance of conserving parrot fish.These fish contribute to the health of key coral ecosystems and play a fundamental role in the survival of coral reefs by removing the algae that robs corals of the light and space they need to grow. But populations of these small algae-eating fish are diminishing rapidly due to human activity, which puts our reefs at greater risk. In the Mexican Caribbean, for example, 60 percent of the reefs are considered in poor or critical health.

A main goal of this press release, as well as other publications made through this program, is to inform the civil society and stakeholders of the importance of protecting these reef species and to build awareness of the role they play in maintaining the health of the oceans and our climate.

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Oliver Cook, AIDA
Oliver Cook, AIDA

Earlier this year, as part of AIDA’s role in the Cabo Pulmo Vivo Coalition, we participated in the process of appointing the new coordinator of the Coalition. We helped with the revision of applications and provided assistance in the selection of the final candidate, who joined the Coalition in April brining a strong background in biological sciences.

The Coalition is dedicated to protect the Cabo Pulmo Reef National Park, a 20,000-year-old ecological treasure in Baja California Sur, Mexico, that hosts many of the 800 marine species in the Sea of Cortez. Developers repeatedly try to build enormous tourist resorts at Cabo Pulmo and the coral reefs there are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of these poorly planned development. AIDA has been instrumental in defeating these projects, and continues to work alongside local partners to protect this critical marine area.

During April and May we played an active role in the integration process of the new coordinator, working in collaboration with him to review and update the Coalition’s guidelines and present the work and activities that AIDA has been doing to strengthen the Coalition.

Due to the current pandemic most of the work has been transferred to virtual platforms. In order to continue the ongoing activities and strategy, we’ve had our coordination meetings online instead of in person, ensuring not only the safety of all participants but also the ability to continue the work and, from the AIDA team, being able to provide the much needed legal and scientific assistance to the local communities and partners.

One of the key pieces of the work that is being coordinated during these meetings is the follow up of a letter and report on the current situation in Cabo Pulmo National Park that was sent in January to the UNESCO, RAMSAR and IUCN authorities. At the end of April, we received the response from the Ramsar Convention's Councilor for the Americas who stated that the Mexican authorities had been informed of the documents submitted by the Coalition.

AIDA is coordinating the follow up meetings and we requested a hearing with the Ramsar Convention's focal point in Mexico, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), to continue the request of revision of the documents.

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Organization Information

Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AIDAorg
Project Leader:
Gladys Martinez
San Jose, Costa Rica
$3,243 raised of $5,000 goal
 
88 donations
$1,757 to go
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