Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef

by Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza, A.C.
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Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef
2015 MAR cohort onboard La Garza in Rio Dulce
2015 MAR cohort onboard La Garza in Rio Dulce

Dear friends, partners and followers,

 2016 has started out well for us and we have good news to share with you!

The first quarter has been full of activities for the Fellows and the MAR-L team:

  • First meeting of the extended MAR-L Executive Committee;
  • Third workshop of the 2015 cohort in Río Dulce, Guatemala;
  • Diploma course of Leadership for Sustainability co-organized by FMCN* in collaboration with Sustentur and Universidad Anahuac Campus Cancun.
  • CEMDA* - FMCN partnership will identify policy opportunities for applying blue carbon in Mexico.
  • Melina Soto, new member of the MAR-L team.
  • Fellows from previous cohorts’ latest developments!
  • Upcoming events...
* Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature
* Mexican Center for the Environmental Law CEMDA
* Commission for Environmental Cooperation -CEC


First meeting of MAR-L’s extended Executive Committee and a preview of 2016 cohort theme. 

The new extended Executive Committee (EC) of the MAR Leadership program met in February in Cancun. Since the program inception, the EC has been integrated by Lorenzo Rosenzweig,Executive Director of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, Carlos Saavedra, Executive Director Summit Foundation, and María José González, Executive Director of the Mesoamerican Reef Fund –MAR Fund. The MAR Leadership Program is at a decisive point in its development and its position in the region. Thereby to expand and incorporate new ideas and visions we have invited the EC a representative from each MAR country with demonstrated expertise in environmental issues and knowledge of the region to join the EC. New members are Janelle Chanona, Vice-President of Oceana as a representative for Belize, Stephen Box, Program Coordinator for Spatial Ecology of Marine Protected Areas from the Smithsonian, as representative for Honduras, Marco Cerezo, Executive Director of FUNDAECO as representative for Guatemala, and Luis Bourillon, Consultant representing Mexico. You can see the bios of the EC here.

Throughout the meeting, the team discussed the program strategies, cohort themes, training and programmatic approach and future development opportunities. The 2016 cohort will be comprised of motivated Fellows that will receive economic, advocacy, communication and leadership training by timely expertise mentors, to promote the successful development of strategic projects aimed at Raising awareness on the importance of the blue economy concept. The call for applications will be released in our social networks soon. Stay tuned and help us spread the word!

Third Workshop of the 2015 cohort in Rio Dulce, Guatemala

The 2015 cohort and the MAR-L team met at Hacienda Tijax Rio Dulce in Izabal District, Guatemala, an estuary of dramatic scenery: a canyon surrounded by mangrove forests that flows into the Amatique Bay, on the Mesoamerican Reef. The first half of the week was dedicated to a dynamic training on resource mobilization and fundraising by Annette Candanedo. 2010 Fellow Ada Pinelo and 2011 Fellow Pilar Velasquez joined the training. In the middle of the week Fellows went on field trip and met with a group of young students from the community learning center Ak'Tenamit, in the heart of Guatemala's Q'eqchi Maya land. Afterwards they shared an amazing meal in Livingston with fishermen cooperatives, government (CONAP, INAB, DIPESCA) and social organizations representatives (Fundaeco and Ecologic). Everybody exchanged their experiences and challenges about their work on mangrove conservation. Former Fellows Blanca Rosa García (2011) and Cleopatra Méndez (2012) joined us and were also engaged in the discussions. The second half of the training was dedicated to conflict analysis, negotiation and consensus building by Rich Wilson (Seatone Consulting). The group flew back home with a renewed energy and several tools to help their projects succeed.

CEMDA and FMCN will identify policy opportunities for applying blue carbon in Mexico

Despite all the benefits that coastal wetlands provide to Mexico, they are under increasing threat. Destruction is mainly triggered by poorly managed human activities driven by short-term economic gain beyond Mexico´s natural heritage recovery rate that underestimate the value of biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which our economy depends. Although the country is taking steps to improve protection of its coastal environment, the legal frameworks generally remain out-of-date, poorly enforced and/or underdeveloped.

In February, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) appointed the alliance CEMDA-FMCN to identify policy opportunities for applying blue carbon science and tools to better conserve and restore coastal and marine habitats, and to improve management and resiliency of coastal areas in Mexico. The goal of this consultancy is to enhance information-sharing, communication and lessons-learned with US and Canada and improve management and resiliency of coastal areas in all three countries. Successful implementation of the consultancy will help Mexico determine what policy strategies and tools it has that can be leveraged to conserve and restore blue carbon ecosystems, including federal, market-based, or international opportunities.

Diploma course of Leadership for Sustainability co-organized by FMCN, Sustentur and Universidad Anahuac Campus Cancun

FMCN and 2010 MAR-L Fellow Vicente Ferreyra's organization, Sustentur joined efforts to develop the first diploma course of Leadership for Sustainability at the Universidad Anáhuac (Cancun). The aim of the diploma is to strengthen the capacities of leaders from the public, private and social sectors to contribute to the sustainable development of tourism in Quintana Roo. The diploma course started on March 4th with 23 participants from various sectors and organizations related to sustainability areas.The topics that will be covered along the seven months of classes range from understanding the legal framework for tourism, to manage communication systems for sustainability, and of course notions on leadership applied tools. In the opening session Lorenzo Rosenzweig, Executive Director of FMCN, gave a keynote talk on the Path to the green / blue economy which was enlightening for the students. 

Webinar: Mangrove Reforestation and Coastal Management

On Monday, March 14th, MAR-L team organized a webinar on Mangrove Reforestation and Coastal Management by Valentine Rosado, Belize country representative for Coral Reef Alliance. Valentine coordinates the development and implementation of grassroots conservation projects aimed at improving sustainability practices in the tourism sector. He shared with the 2015 Fellows his experience, presenting special reforestation techniques for different types of environments.

What have the Fellows been up to? 

We are proud to report that Melissa Alvarez (2014 Fellow, Guatemala) who works as an advisor to the National Commission on Solid Waste Management (SWM) and in the Department of SWM within the Natural Resources Ministry (MARN) led the process for reviewing and updating the National Policy for Integrated Solid Waste Management which was published in the Official Journal of the Central Governmental Agreement January 13th 2016. During the12-month process, Melissa coordinated a team of multidisciplinary professionals in the MARN and the Inter-Agency Committee for Integrated Solid Waste Management. The policy was validated by more than 250 people representing public and private sectors. The adoption of the National Policy, will incentivize various actions to improve SWM including the use of the Guidelines for Municipal waste which is Melissa’s project in the MAR Leadership Program. She got funding from the GIZ and is planning to pilot it soon in Livingston. Find out more

MAR Fund small grants program is financing a coral restoration pilot project in the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, the country's very first of its kind. This innovative proposal to support coastal marine resources' conservation and sustainable management, integrates scientific research and social development with the cooperation of fishing communities to study and experiment the feasibility of active coral reef restoration in the area. The leading team is composed by three MAR-L Fellows from Guatemala working in collaboration with Healthy Reefs Initiative and FUNDAECO; Ana Giro (2011), Angela Mojica (2012) and Guillermo Galvez (2015). The first steps of the project have been completed in the past month of February and the monitoring and follow up process is now startingThey already have 9 nurseries in each receptor reef. In total there are about 180 pieces growing. Due to the particular conditions of the reefs Guatemala they are working with different species of corals that have not been used in restoration programs in the MAR (Undaria and Porites sp.). Six fishers (including 2 women fishers participated actively process of harvesting and planting in nurseries.

Kim Ley-Cooper (2011 Fellow, Mexico) recently earned his PhD degree from the Department of Environment and Agriculture of the Curtin University in Australia. Kim´s MAR project is actually part of his fresh from the oven thesis, Sustainability of Lobster Panulirus argus Fisheries in Marine Protected Areas in South-eastern Mexico. The label Chakay is a synergy of 6 fishing cooperatives and has been recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council –MSC. Chakay has grown and is now considered an example for other certifications in the region. They pioneer on bringing the movement Slow Food and Slow Fish in Mexico. Because the warranty their product's quality represents, some of the best national and international chefs in the Riviera Maya are actively seeking Chakay lobsters to appear on their menu. As Chakay recognition is internationally growing, a German TV team shot a documentary about the project, which can be seen on line:éxico-contienen-la-respiración/a-19068584

As a first step in her project on sustainable management of solid waste in Roatan, Cindy Flores (2014 Fellow, Honduras)proposed the creation of a "green classroom" at Sandy Bay's Model Education Center. The main goal of the green classroom is to integrate environmental education and interpretation into the students' learning development. In addition to the classic curriculum, the students will learn about recycling, separation and reutilization of materials. Awareness about coastal marine resources, biodiversity and sense of responsibility will be raised. Cindy has recently obtained the financing support of MAR Fund in order to develop this project which will empower not only the students, but also the professors and the community of Sandy Bay. The expected results of the green classroom are learning improvements, the use of cognitive pedagogical tools to understand nature and generate knowledge, motivation and commitment to protect natural resources. 

As presented in the last Healthy Reefs Initiative report, waste water contamination is one of the major threats to the Mesoamerican Reef. Coral Reef Alliance and Healthy Reef Initiative, where both 2010 Fellows from Honduras Jennifer Myton and Ian Drysdale respectively work, have joined forces with several entities from Roatan such as the Roatan Municipality, Bay Islands Conservation AssociationBICA and the two local water councils, Polo’s Water and Half Moon Bay water, to improve the waste-water treatment plant of West End and improve the plant’s operation. MARFund, the German International Cooperation and KfW Development Bankwill provide financial support to develop a first phase of the project titled: "Technical Rehabilitation and Equipment of the West End Waste Water Treatment Plant".

Fellows Ian Drysdale (2010) and Ana Giro (2011)Healthy Reef Initiative country coordinators in Honduras and Guatemala, launched HRI 2016 report. The report evaluates the region's collective efforts towards protection and sustainable management of the Mesoamerican Reef in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. The take home message of the report is that now, more than ever, is time to increase our effort and continue working toFellows visiting the AkTenamit center

Fellows visiting the AkTenamit center
Fellow Melissa Alvarez
Fellow Melissa Alvarez
Fellows Ana Giro and Angela Mojica restoring coral
Fellows Ana Giro and Angela Mojica restoring coral
Fellow Cindy Flores teaching in Sandy Bay
Fellow Cindy Flores teaching in Sandy Bay
Fellow Ana Giro launching the 2015 HRI report
Fellow Ana Giro launching the 2015 HRI report
ICRI attendees and experts
ICRI attendees and experts


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Dear friends and supporters! 

It’s the end of the year and Santa is coming to town! The holiday spirit is in us and we in the MAR Leadership Program are filled with gratitude with all the people that has supported us throughout 2015. Thank you very much for trusting us and for allowing us to continue protecting our Mesoamerican Reef System.

We are happy to share with you the progress made by the MAR Leadership Program and our Fellows in the development of their projects and their professional careers along the fourth quarter of the year.

2015 Cohort

The second workshop of the 2015 cohort took place in November in Placencia, Belize. During this workshop, Fellows received training on personal development by Psych. Carlos Terzano. They learned more about themselves, reflecting on their goals, accomplishments, strengths, fears, and their network. This generated greater self confidence and trust in the group.

In the field trip we visited Belize Aquaculture Limited (BAL) where we learned about good practices on shrimp farming and about the newly formed ASC Belize national aquaculture certification. Then we went on a boat ride around the Placencia Lagoon where we could see different mangrove plantations, and outside the lagoon, to a nearby key to snorkel around both mangroves and coral reefs. It was a day full of learning!

And to top it all off, the workshop was concluded with the training of Lauretta Burke (WRI) and Rich Wilson (Seatone Consulting) in economic valuation of mangrove ecosystem services, identifying key stakeholders, progressive conservation and communication strategies. We had special guests such as Nicole Aui Gomez Southern Environment Association (SEA), Roberto Pot of Healthy Reefs Initiative and the former Minister of Natural Resources Lisel Alamilla.

Telling the story of Holbox

By Minerva Rosette (2015 MAR Fellow)

Clemente lived in Holbox Island since he was a child with his parents who are fishers.  Currently he works as a manager of one of the hotels in the island. The island has grown slowly, and from being a fully fishing village it has become a destination where tourists seek to encounter nature, enjoy the calm waters and feel how time passes slowly.Clemente knows that such a peaceful place can change from one moment to another. He recalls October 21, 2005 when hurricane Wilma hit the island. He, his guests and more than 2000 people had to leave the island and everything they had.They managed to go back home a week later and found that the roads were destroyed and homes and hotels were flooded. Losses that were considered to be in more than $3 million US end up being of $580,000 US.Clemente knows that mangroves, where his father used to fish, is the natural barrier that helped reduce the impact and losses. He wonders how the potential of this ecosystem can be estimated in order to continue to protect their heritage and the people of the Island.

Wilma was the most expensive disaster in Mexico. In 2005 the government and the hospitality industry assumed that the cost of damage to the main tourist area of Mexico ranged between 800 and 1,500 MDD. 10 years later the Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions documented the impact of the hurricane on the coast of Quintana Roo and estimated a cost of 1,752 million dollars. To make it worse, in 2007 Hurricane Dean hit the southern part of Quintana Roo state with losses of 700 million dollars.In less than two years the private sector, the community and governments invested more than 2,500 MDD to rehabilitate the area.

In the midst of this chaos, there were areas of contingency that suffered minor losses, especially those areas protected by reefs and mangrove barriers and where the main benefits offered by the mangroves were fulfilled in terms of protection.This environmental service (coastal protection) undoubtedly has a value; however, there is no standardized methodology that could be used by governments, the private sector or insurers to calculate the value of mangroves services in cases such as hurricanes. Mangrove conservation has a value that must be accounted as part of the assets in a city, a tourist destination or a decision maker to make decisions about how their resources are invested.

Minerva’s project: Valuation of the environmental services of Yum Balam’s mangrove seeks to generate a methodology for the economic valuation of environmental services that are provided by the mangroves to the inhabitants of the Island of Holbox. This information will become a reference for decision making and mangrove conservation. For more information, check out our website

What are Fellows up to?

Nicanor Requena (MAR Fellow 2011, Belize) just shared the following news: Belize ends open access to marine fisheries Nicanor is the Project Manager for Environmental Defense Fund since the inception of its work in Belize with Managed Access. It started with the establishment of a network of MPAs with the collaboration of various actors from civil society, academia and ecosystem users. Nevertheless, an adequate management at the level of fisheries resources was extremely needed. In Belize, all fisheries (with the exception of the Queen conch) were free-access. In other words, there were no quotas that exact a capture limit—a reason why commercial fish populations were being dramatically depleted. Managed Access initially sought to establish a system of quotas for access to fisheries in two pilot Belizean MPAs - Port Honduras and Glovers Reef marine reserves, and that was exactly the objective of Nicanor´s MAR project. This came to reality two years ago. The work at these two initial pilot sites enabled them to demonstrate that this fisheries tool does work and fishers support it. Now after extensive work with fishers and policy makers and the collective contribution of many, the Managed Access Working Group (a team made up of local NGOs, fisher associations, cooperatives under the guidance of the Belize Fisheries Department) is at the point where they have the green light for the implementation of Managed Access in all the territorial waters of Belize.  The formation of the Community Managed Access Committees, which occurred the first week of December, (mostly comprise of fishers from the main fishing communities) is a first major step in the implementation of this fisheries management approach, and a significant progress in Belize marine conservation.

"This is a major accomplishment. It is the work of member organization of the Belize Managed Access Working Group made up of local and international NGOs, fisher groups and lead by the Belize Fisheries Department. I am energized by this and will continue to work on getting successful implementation in Belize with the hope that we can share what we have done in Belize with others in the region... both Oak and Summit Foundations have been supporting our work in Belize" said Nicanor.

Melissa Alvarez´s (2014 MAR Fellow, Guatemala) project Development and Implementation of Municipal Plans for Sustainable Waste Management in Guatemala is an initiative of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) generated through the MAR Leadership Program. The Guide for the development and implementation of municipal management plans has already been developed and is currently in the phase of the layout, illustration and printing the document. Melissa is leading the revision of the National Waste Management Policy of Guatemala, as part of her duties as advisor to the National Commission on Solid Waste Management in the MARN. The final version was presented in August and is awaiting the endorsement by the new government. This project was presented at a key moment in which the MARN is promoting the Law for the Integral Management of Solid Waste and Waste Guatemala.

Regarding the 2015 MAR cohort, Guillermo Galvez from Guatemala, has been very active the last quarter of 2015! In October he was speaker at the National Congress of Marine Biology and in December he presented his work on the Multiple Use Area of Sarstun River in a forum organized by the Tri-National Alliance for the Conservation of the Gulf of Honduras (TRIGOH). He has been also working very closely with the former Fellows Ana Giro (2011) and Angela Mojica (2012). Also Cesar Zacarias, just shared with us the recent approval by Guatemala´s National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) of the proposal for an update on the national regulation for mangroves. This process of updating that is being coordinated by Cesar, started in 2011 and it is just pending by the approval from the National Institute of Forestry (INAB). Good luck Cesar!


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2015 cohort MAR Fellows at the Induction Workshop
2015 cohort MAR Fellows at the Induction Workshop

Dear friends and supporters!


We are happy to share with you the progress made by the MAR Leadership Program and Fellows in the development of their projects and their professional careers along the third quarter of 2015.


2015 cohort recruitment process

In June 2015 the MAR Leadership Program launched the 2015 Call for Applications.  The 2015 cohort’s theme is mangrove conservation and valuation. MAR Leadership’s goal is to conserve 20% of the existing mangrove cover in the (MAR) over the next five years by reducing deforestation and degradation of mangrove ecosystem services (ecotourism, coastal protection, fisheries, blue carbon, aquifer protection) and addressing threats to mangroves through a range of strategies and projects advanced by selected Fellows.  A total of 167 people contacted us for information and we received 49 complete applications.  22 people were interviewed through Skype and 19 candidates were interviewed in person.  From the 49 applications, 47% were from Mexico, 33% from Honduras, 12% from Guatemala and 8% from Belize.  13 fellows were selected for the 2015 cohort: five from Mexico (Rebeca, Minerva, Blanca, Jennifer and Carlos), three from Guatemala (César, Guillermo and José), three from Honduras (Mayra, Óscar and Anuar) and two from Belize (Ralna and Cecilia). Four fellows represent the government sector, two the private sector and seven the NGOs. Seven fellows are women and six are men.


2015 cohort Induction workshop

We had a great start of the 2015 cohort cycle!

The induction workshop took place 5-12 September in Cancun, Mexico. In the first section of the workshop Fellows were introduced to Mexican Fund and the MAR Leadership Program. They were also trained on Leadership styles by the MAR Leadership Program Director and on Storytelling by former National Geographic Magazine Editor.

In the middle of the week we went to the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka'an where we learned about the community tourism project led by Vicente Ferreyra (MAR Fellow 2010) and Community Tours. We hike through the archaeological site of Muyil and the jungle in an interpretive trail. We crossed the turquoise Chunyaxche lagoon and floated in the fresh water canal between red mangroves. The field trip ended with a local lunch and the presentations of Community Tours Operations Director and Community Leader and the Omar Ortiz, Director of the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka'an (CONANP).

2015 cohort mentors Rich Wilson (Seatone Inc) and Lauretta Burke (WRI) trained Fellows in economic valuation of mangrove ecosystem services, governance and facilitation techniques. Guest speakers included Maria Jose Gonzalez (MAR Fund), Ricardo Gomez (Regional Director, CONANP), Jose Luis Funes (Delegate for Quintana Roo State, SEMARNAT), Patricia Santos (CONANP), Maria Teresa Rodriguez (CONABIO), Jorge Herrera-Silveira (CINVESTAV), Esthela Martinez (Flora, Fauna y Cultura) gave interesting presentations to the Fellows.

By the end of the workshop 2015 fellows had a common understanding of the importance, values, and conservation challenges surrounding mangrove ecosystems in the MAR. They learned about the Coastal Capital methodology for conducting economic valuation, and about governance, stakeholder engagement, strategic communication and facilitative leadership. During this workshop Fellows had the opportunity to interact with special guests and started building synergies between past and present Fellow projects.


2014 fellows’ use of their individual capacity building funds

Along the first half of this year (Jan-Jul) the 2014 cohort fellows used their Individual Training Funds that the MAR Leadership Program has reserved for them to perform the activities they consider imperative in order to the success of their projects. In this way, two fellows (Tzahyri from Mexico and Joanna from Guatemala) traveled to Canada and got enrolled into a one month fulltime English course at the Internacional Language School of Canada –ILSC, an educational community that delivers dynamic and inspirational English language training program in different sites of the country. Both Fellows largely improved their communication skills, and now they will be able to better persuade international stakeholders and donors into their projects.

Mario from Guatemala used his funds to undertake a 2D and 3D AutoCad Software Learning Course in order to better design and manage a Transfer Station and the needed machinery. These learned skills will definitely be used in the building of a transfer station in Livingston, Izabal. Mario also used part of his funds to join his colleage a 2014 MAR Fellow Emerson from Belize, in a visit to Punta Gorda, Belize, were Emerson´s project is located. They both were doing research on the logistics regarding the exportation of solid waste out of the Punta Gorda dumping site. After this visit, and a previous one, Emerson also was able to create the first draft of a solid waste management diagnosis for Punta Gorda town.

The 2014 Fellows were also very active presenters. Mónica from Mexico was granted to attend to 8th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC 2015) held in Gotemburg, Sweden, where she exposed her project “Connecting Initiatives for a Healthy Reef: a virtual learning platform on Sustainable Materials Management for the Mesoamerican Reef Ecoregion” and the MAR Leadership program in two oral presentations. The project “Sustainable materials management in Roatan” was accepted for oral presentation at the10th International Congress on Environmental Education for Sustainable Development, in Havana Cuba, so Cindy from Honduras used part of her funds to cover her registration and travel expenses. And Laura from Honduras was invited by Mark Lichtenstein, 2014 MAR-L mentor and National Recycling Coalition CEO, to attend the Summit on Sustainable Materials Management held in New York State, EUA, an event organized by the National Recycling Coalition, Inc. (NRC), in collaboration with the Syracuse University Center for Sustainable Community Solutions and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Finance.

Finally, Fernando from Mexico was granted to attend to a course on how to perform inventories of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions, taught by the Scientific Researching Center of Yucatan (CICY by the Spanish acronym). The knowledge achieved by Fernando on this course to quantify emissions will generate a tool to incentive the hotels and developers of Yum Balam to perform good recycling practices (like composting or reusing instead buying new) as they are proved to decrease the GHG emissions.

2015 1st Workshop in Cancun: mangrove valuation
2015 1st Workshop in Cancun: mangrove valuation
2015 1st Workshop in Cancun: field trip
2015 1st Workshop in Cancun: field trip
2015 1st Workshop in Cancun: storytelling training
2015 1st Workshop in Cancun: storytelling training


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Dear friends and supporters!

We want to tell you how appreciative we are of your support to the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program in 2014!  Your belief in our mission of a healthy reef with prosperous communities has allowed us to strengthen the capacities and leadership skills of young conservationists in Mexico (Quintana Roo), Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras to help them launch marine and coastal conservation project.

In gratitude, we are happy to share with you the progress made by the MAR Leadership Program and Fellows in the development of their projects and their professional careers along the second quarter of 2015.

2014 MAR Leadership cohort farewell: Final workshop in Belize

The Fourth Workshop of the 2014 Cohort, was held in Belize City, Belize from April 26th to May 3rd, 2015. In addition to the trainings that Fellows received, this dynamic workshop connected Fellows with international experts, and strengthened the MAR Leadership network, enabling new synergies, and empowering the existing ones. As in previous workshops, other Fellows from the host country participated, including Nicanor and Angeline (2011 MAR Fellows), Leonel, Adriel and Joel Green (2012 MAR Fellows).

The workshop started with training on advocacy delivered by Lori (ELAW1). The analysis of real case studies in the four MAR countries was presented by other ELAW members, such as Alejandra (CEMDA2), Janelle (Oceana), Judge Antoinette, Clarisa (IDAMHO3), and Jeanette (ADA24).

The goal of this training was to develop a wide and purposeful vision of public policies in MAR Fellows, and help strengthen their capacity to influence society and decision making processes.

As it has been done in former workshops, a Symposium on Integrated Solid Waste Management in the MAR countries was held in Belmopan, which allowed an exchange of ideas and agreements between government authorities, MAR Fellows, experts, and members of various social sectors of the host country, who share an interest in preventing the impacts of inadequate management of solid waste in the MAR. Regional and national efforts regarding sustainability on solid waste management were presented.

Fellows were also trained on institutional development and resource mobilization by Annette, which motivated the analysis of the challenges that social organizations face in achieving their own sustainability. Annette helped Fellows understand how to leverage the resources of their organizations, how to find innovative and creative alternatives for income generation and diversification of financing sources for their projects, and how to professionalize and strengthen their institutions.

MAR Fellows presented the progressed made in their projects, the big changes that they are all already achieving in their communities, and future plans.

1 Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, 2 Mexican Center for Environmental Law, 3 Honduras Institute for Environmental Law, 4 Alianza de Derecho Ambiental y Agua.

Hihlight of the 2014 cohort

1) New skills and knowledge: 13 fellows have been trained on project design, fundraising, strategic communications, personal development, negotiated solutions/conflict resolution, and public policy advocacy. This bundle of skills is designed to assist Fellows in the design and execution of their projects. Three Fellows have advanced to positions of greater influence and responsibility in their current organization. Fellows have raised funds from governmental sources, Foundations, and a local NGO to launch their projects. Several of them have become advocates inside important public policy reform processes. For instance, Melissa is leading the adaptation of a national policy for integrated waste and sewage management in Guatemala; and Lemuel is leading the development of a new regulation that includes a solid waste generation assessment as a pre-requisite to securing permits for startup businesses in Cozumel.

2) Sustainable Materials Management as a guiding model for Fellows’ projects: 7 projects on Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) have been launched in five communities (Cozumel and Holbox islands in Mexico; Punta Gorda in Belize; Livingston in Guatemala; and Roatan Island in Honduras) contributing to the regional vision of reducing plastic waste in the MAR by 30% in the next 3-5 five years. SMM projects emphasize source reduction, materials reuse, composting, recycling, local job creation, and regional economic development. Fernando, Tzahyríand Denisse have contributed in rehabilitating Holbox Island transfer station. It has been cleaned up and employees have been trained and equipped. In the last several months 8 tons of waste has been transferred to the mainland for recycling. Incineration has been an issue of concern in Holbox. In addition, students from Holbox schools are recycling PET bottles by converting them into hammocks and roofs. They are also transforming paper, glass, and cardboard into arts and crafts for educational purposes. Given the small size but biological importance of Holbox, these actions have measurably reduced the waste discarded in the transfer station, which can be a leaching hazard for the reef.

3) Networking opportunities and synergies: 7 multi-sector conservation partnerships arise from relationships developed as part of the 2014 cohort. An example is the collaboration between Emerson from Belize and Mario from Guatemala who are working on a strategy to transport recoverable materials from Punta Gorda, Belize to Puerto Barrios in Guatemala where they will be recycled. Tzahyrí from Holbox and Lemuel from Cozumel are implementing a new initiative based on cero plastic zones where they are replacing disposable plastic bottles with reusable bottles which will significantly reduce waste production in their communities. Lemuel is collecting the iron-man and other sports events plastic bottles that are in good shape and is delivering them to Tzahyrí who is introducing them in schools.

Fellows have been linked to international mentors who have strengthening their MAR project, and helped fellows with their current job and responsibilities. Laura from Honduras participated as a speaker at the Summit on Sustainable Materials Management organized by the U.S. National Recycling Coalition, in collaboration with the Center of Syracuse University the Sustainable Community Solutions and the Center for Environmental Finance of the University of Maryland. She learned about successful experiences in implementing the SMM and had the opportunity to meet several members of the Recycling Coalition of Puerto Rico who will be visiting her in Roatan in supporting her project in Roatan. During a Solid Waste Management Forum, the Bay Islands Governor and the mayors of the two municipalities on Roatan Island signed an unprecedented agreement to collaborate with the sustainable management of materials project and support Fellows projects.   

2015 Call for applications

The central goal of the 2015 MAR Leadership Program is to conserve 20% of the existing mangrove cover in the (MAR) over the next five years by reducing deforestation and degradation of mangrove ecosystem services (ecotourism, coastal protection, fisheries, blue carbon, aquifer protection) and addressing threats to mangroves through a range of strategies and projects advanced by selected Fellows. 

The call for applications closes on July 15Th. We are excited and looking forward to receiving plenty of applications from candidates in the MAR countries.


                                                   What are MAR Fellows up to?

Roatan-Cancun binational conferences

In June, binational conferences between elementary schools in Roatan and Cancun were held. 2014 MAR Fellows Cindy (Honduras) and Monica (Mexico) connected two schools for the second time this year, and they plan to continue with more groups of different ages and also with teachers. The topics discussed during the conferences were focused on the importance of the coastal ecosystems shared by both countries as well as how solid waste has become a threat to the ecosystem. Children from both countries shared messages and solutions.

Environmental education focused on youth is the cornerstone of Cindy and Monica´s leadership projects. Technology has become the means of communication that brings awareness on solid waste out of the classroom and that can be replicated throughout the region. It is expected that Cindy and Monica can trace a training plan according to the teachers and students’ needs in the Sandy Bay School to strengthen the SMM program (Sustainable Materials Management). Cindy together with Laura will begin framing the baseline of waste generation in the school to feed into their project and into Monica´s project: the online learning platform. This platform –will share trainings as well as information about SMM and downloadable teaching materials, all tropicalized into a context of SMM in the MAR.

Cindy and Laura: news from Roatan

In June BICA Roatán (Bay Island Conservation Association) celebrated the Oceans Day  with a workshop organized by Cindy (2014 MAR Fellow, Honduras) is the who is the environmental educator. The workshop focused on ocean pollution in the school Modelo of Sandy Bay. The event was also attended by school teachers of West End and staff of the Department of Education of the Bay Islands Department. Activities also included a beach cleanup with teachers. Teachers were shocked with videos and photos that we shared and every day they are more and more convinced that we must act, and that one of the first solutions to this problem is to raise awareness and take responsibility – says Cindy.

VIII Environment Education World Congress

World Environmental Education Congress – WEEC – is an international congress addressing education for environment and sustainable development. It is the meeting point for everyone working in education for environment and sustainable development or who have an interest in the field. WEEC2015 is an opportunity to learn more about the latest developments in environmental and sustainability education, to share your own work with people from all over the world and to learn from others.

As part of her individual training funds, the MAR Leadership Program supported Monica (2014 MAR Fellow, Mexico) to attend WEEC2015, to be held from June 29 to July 2 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Congress theme is "Planet and People - strategies for living together". Monica submitted two abstracts that were accepted for oral presentation: Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program: Building a New Generation of Environmental Leaders and Connecting Initiatives for a Healthy Reef: a virtual learning platform on Sustainable Materials Management for the Mesoamerican Reef Ecoregion.

You can see these abstracts and more at:


Vicente (2010 MAR Fellow, Mexico) was recently appointed Project Manager for the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI). Vicente´s tasks will be to coordinate MARTI´s partners in the four MAR countries, to create a monitoring and evaluation system, to promote the establishment of strategic alliances for the initiative, fundraising support, and communication of achievements. In addition, Vicente is supporting the Mesoamerican Reef office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) based in Guatemala to develop the brand and communication strategy of MAR Destination. The destination seeks to bring together community tourism initiatives in the four MAR countries (with emphasis on Guatemala and Honduras but with a regional vision) and allow these initiatives to have more outward visibility, and to have a common image to appeal to niche markets. 


Carlos (2012 MAR Fellow, Mexico) is advising the Municipality of Solidaridad (where Playa del Carmen is located) with its Climate Change Strategy to report to the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) in the Cities project. CDP is an international, not-for-profit organisation providing the only global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share their environmental information. Through CDP, cities around the world are measuring, monitoring and managing their impact on the environment. Over the past five years, CDP has worked with 207 cities to manage over one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. CDP’s cities program demonstrates that cities are better managing their risk and increasing resiliency through more than 2,000 activities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. See more at:

Following this Climate Change Strategy, the Municipality of Solidaridad is the 4th nationwide town to report to CDP and opens opportunities to participate in the 21th Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris (


2011 MAR Fellow Kim (Mexico) has completed the writing of his Ph.D thesis at the Curtin University of Technology, in Perth, Australia! His research was partially performed through his MAR Leadership project: Adding value to MAR ecosystems, a holistic approach to its fisheries. This project seeks to generate socio-economic incentives for sustainable fishing and monitoring through the implementation of artificial shelters for spiny lobster and the restoration of Biosphere Reserves in Banco Chinchorro and Sian Kaan. We share some of the results published in the paper: abs / 10.1080 / 17451000.2012.727434.


In June 2012 MAR Fellow Giacomo (Mexico) won the Award as Sea Hero by the Scuba Diving magazine The magazine is acknowledging his hard work in marine conservation as Director of Roatan Marine Park, Honduras.   


Other Fellows’ proyects impacts

Maya Ka'an, 2010 Fellow Vicente´s project is a new community tourism destination in the Mexican Caribbean that has integrated 17 (tourism cooperatives) in nine locations covering three municipalities in central Quintana Roo. In three years the project has trained 400 people from the communities of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, certified more than 30 tour guides under the NOM 009 on specialized nature tourism, and has certified 10 companies as sustainable ecotourism companies under the norm NMX 133 Ecotour

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Dear friends,

The first quarter of the year has been hectic and productive. We are happy to report the progress made by the 2014 MAR Fellows in the development of their projects and their professional careers. Joanna and Mario from Guatemala, attended a workshop on Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Inventories organized by USAID, WWF, GIZ and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, MARN. Guatemala has recently approved the Framework Law on Climate Change, which promotes initiatives that reduce emissions of GHG. Landfills, especially those with high load of organic matter, are important sources of GHG, therefore a project that reduces the amount of organic waste disposal through composting for example, will be considered as a change climate mitigation tool and therefore have greater legal and financial support. For this reason, many of the 2014 cohort fellows like Joanna and Mario are increasing their interest in this type of training to monitor the impact of conservation in their projects. Also, and as part of their project with the project entitled "Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) along the Motagua River basin and starting with the Municipality of Livingston ", Joanna and Mario have continued socializing the concept of SMM by training teachers, giving interviews at national media and organizing strategic meetings with key stakeholders such as municipal authorities. 

Melissa  from Guatemala finalized the process of reformation and adaptation of the National Policy for the Integrated Management of Solid Waste. Regarding her project "Guide to Develop Plans for Municipal Solid Waste Management for the town of Livingston" Melissa has incorporated the guide in the Annual Work Plan of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) and has achieved technical and financial support from the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and has achieved validation through the Coordinating Committee for the Integrated Solid Waste Management.

Tzahyrí  from Mexico is recycling glass by creating fine arts and crafts. She learned the technique of vitromosaic with discarded bottles, glass fusing and cut glass from Mexican artisans. Tzahyrí’s objective is to develop a sustainable alternative for the glass used in Holbox Island. Through these techniques the used glass becomes souvenirs for tourism. Tzahyrí’s MAR Leadership project seeks to establish a plan for integrated management of materials in the natural protected area of Yum Balam, where Holbox is located, reducing the amount of waste reaching the landfill (glass in this case), but also, supporting the conservation of Holbox´s biodiversity by giving tourists a sustainable alternative to traditional handicrafts made from corals, sponges and starfish.

The nonprofit organization, Ocean Conservancy (OC), through its Programme Trash Free Seas (Trash Free Seas), has worked hard over the past year in an exercise to identify the most important sources of plastic pollution in the ocean with which outlined a set of solutions that match the scope and scale of the problem. OC has considered Belize as the perfect location to conduct a study because it allows them to assess the driver and barriers to success through various stages of the development of waste management. This work is being conducted by Ted S., director of DSM Environmental Services, Inc. and Emerson , 2014 Belize MAR Fellow, is helping him as the focal point of fieldwork in Belize, organizing meetings and showing Ted the waste management system of various districts of Belize. We are very excited about this new partnership with Ocean Conservancy.

Pablo, 2010 Mexico MAR Fellow, through Oceanus International, is working on a project to clean the FONATUR marina in Cozumel, considering all the environmental conditions. This will help FONATUR avoid dispersion of sediment plumes that may damage the reef, among other negative effects that have impacted in previous projects the reef of Cozumel Marine Park. Oceanus International is also constantly working on the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, where Pablo works in the project “Better Than A Beach” conditioning the hotel beach carefully following all environmental standards.

Maricarmen , 2010 MAR Fellow, reports to us from the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas of Mexico where she works, about the territorial expansion of the queen conch fishing ban until November 2017 and ranging from Punta Herrero to Xcalak, Quintana Roo. “Little by little we are increasing the ban area”- Maricarmen said. We want to congratulate her and the Fishermen Cooperatives from Banco Chinchorro, Langosteros del Caribe, and Andrés Quintana Roo for this initiative. After 10 years as director of Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve and Xcalak Reef National Park, Maricarmen has recently been appointed as Director of the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve and Isla Contoy National Park, on the northern tip of the MAR region.

Angela, from Guatemala and Carlos, from Mexico, both 2012 MAR Fellows, received a scholarship to participate in the environmental economics for coastal ecosystems online course "Coastal Conservation Economics", which is being developed through a partnership between Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) and Duke University - Nicholas Institute. The course began in January and will last until May, with students from around the world. This course will significantly extend the capabilities of Angela and Carlos as to understand how institutional and market failures lead to the degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems. They will discuss political and economic tools to remedy these faults, and even they will have a focus on how the valuation of environmental services is influencing decision makers in developing conservation policies.

"La Garza" the researching vessel from the Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation (FUNDAECO), a Guatemalan nonprofit organization, celebrated its second anniversary. Transforming "La Garza" into a floating marine researching center that seeks to mobilize the collective interest on the environmental problems of the Gulf of Honduras, was the MAR Leadership project of Karen, 2010 MAR Fellow Guatemala and Director of Institutional Development at FUNDAECO.

In response to the regional need to monitor and balance the fishing of sharks and rays in Guatemala, an Advisory Committee for Sharks and Rays was established. The organization is run by the Directorate for Fisheries and Aquaculture Regulations of Guatemala (DIPESCA) and the non-profit Fundación Mundo Azul, with the participation of the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), the diving school Water Quest and organizations like Healthy Reefs Initiative (represented in Guatemala by Ana 2011 MAR Fellow, the Center for the Marine studies and Aquaculture (CEMA) at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, "MarAlliance" and " Shark Legacy Project "coordinated by Giacomo, 2012 MAR Fellow Honduras. In January this committee held a meeting to support the implementation of international conventions and laws by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). "We need to educate and raise awareness on the importance of sharks and rays for the balance of coastal marine ecosystems, on how to promote sustainable fisheries for the economy of fishing communities and on the need to diversify fishermen´s economic activities," said Giacomo.

 We have the 2015 cohort theme!

In the first quarter of the year we finished shaping the 2015 cohort theme, which will focus on the valuation and conservation of mangroves along the SAM region. In January, the MAR Leadership team traveled through the four countries gathering information and identifying key stakeholders, and met in Mexico City with the Executive Committee of the program to define the regional vision of the 2015 cohort. The regional vision for 2015 is to achieve zero deforestation of mangroves in the SAM within the next 10 years, with middle-term targets (5 years) including the protection of at least 40,000 hectares of mangroves (equivalent to 20% of the current coverage) and the valuation of ecosystem services as a reality in at least 5 locations in the region.

The 2015 MAR Fellows cohort call for applications will be published in May. Follow the process in our website and social networks!

Thank so much for your support to the MAR Leadership Program!!!


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Organization Information

Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza, A.C.

Location: Mexico D.F., Distrito Federal - Mexico
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @fondomexicano
Project Leader:
Maria Eugenia Arreola
Cancun, Quintana Roo Mexico
$13,925 raised of $25,000 goal
189 donations
$11,075 to go
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