Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef

by Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturale
Meet our 2016 Fellows on our website
Meet our 2016 Fellows on our website

Dear friends, partners and followers,

The third quarter of the year has been exciting! We launched our 2016 call for applications and went through a very competitive recruitment process. We interviewed great candidates for our 2016 cohort, whose theme is: Promoting a Blue Economy approach to sustainable development!

What is Blue Economy? FAO (2014) defines "Blue Growth" or "Blue Economy" as a rational approach to sustainable, comprehensive and socioeconomic management of the oceans and coasts. It is focused on fisheries, aquaculture, ecosystem services, and social protection of the coastal communities. Under a Blue Growth framework, responsible, sustainable and inclusive economic practices are promoted. Through capacity building, Blue Economy strengthens environmental legislation and institutional arrangements that empower communities, civil society organizations and public entities.

Fundamentals of this new economy are: optimizing the benefits from the use of marine resources (fisheries, bio-prospecting) to have higher profitability; reinvesting the benefits in environmental management, social capital, reducing national external debt and contributing to the eradication of poverty; promoting equity in access to the benefits so that there is a constant cash flow to all parties involved; and innovation in the production of circular solutions (blue solutions) that bring together economy and environment.

As you may know, the four countries that share the MAR region: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, are intimately linked to coastal marine ecosystems. The diversity of natural resources in the area has influenced local cultures for generations. The region now subsists mainly on the tourism and fisheries industries. It is estimated that three quarters of the population lives within 200 kilometers from the coastline. As the region continues to experience substantial and unprecedented changes along its coastline, including coastal pollution, fisheries decline and increased vulnerability to climate change; it becomes hence necessary to redefine the direction where economic activities are heading. It is urgent to change the traditional development paradigm towards a more (blue) economy, where human well-being and social equity rises, while natural resources are safeguarded for future generations.

2016 Fellows will be trained and mentored mainly by two amazing organizations:

  • Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) the world’s only organization specifically focused on ensuring that economic insight is rigorously applied and embedded in conservation policy. Founded in 1998, CSF has trained over 2,200 people from 90 countries in 70-plus economic tools courses across North America, South America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific and conducted dozens of economic analyses that have shaped decision-making across the globe. CSF staff will mentor Fellows in designing economic analysis projects for conservation impact, including project scoping, design, methodology and analysis.
  • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) a global alliance of attorneys, scientists and other advocates collaborating across borders to promote grassroots efforts to build a sustainable, just future. ELAW will provide training, mentoring and technical assistance on Advocacy and Leadership including the development of effective communication campaigns; public participation in environmental decision making, and use of legal tools.

The call for applications was launched on our social networks, sent out to our contact lists and several related mailing lists, reaching around 20,000 people. Conscious that the topic of this year's cohort is quite unique and different from the previous years, MAR-L staff undertook an intensive diffusion effort and held press conferences, interviews and presentations in the four countries!

Numerous interesting proposals and profiles were received, and after a thorough selection process involving MAR-L staff and Executive Committee, we are thrilled to present you MAR Leadership’s brand new 2016 Cohort:

  • Michelle Villatoro from Guatemala works as Advisor for the Basel Convention at the Ministry of Environment. Her project “Improving Environmental Management in Puerto Barrios and Puerto Santo Tomas, Izabal” seeks to encourage and support the compliance with the Basilea Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal as well as the Marpol Convention to prevent marine pollution from ships by assessing environmental and social conditions in the two ports. The mid and long term result of this project is the prevention, control and minimization of environmental impacts generated by port activity.
  • Diana Vasquez from Honduras works as Executive Director at the Center for Marine Studies. Her project “Improving the Business Model of Artisanal Fisheries Based on the Blue Economy” will provide sustainable solutions to make the sector more economic profitable. The project aims at working with the National Federation of Artisanal Fishermen based in Omoa, on the use of alternative fuels (gas), inexpensive mechanical improvements to engines to make them more efficient, plus the incorporation of novel techniques to add value to products. Her ultimate goal is to ensure better incomes for fishermen and their families.
  • Her country fellow, Milton Alvarado, is an independent consultant specialized in financial mechanisms for conservation. His project “Design and Implement a Financial Mechanism for Conservation of Watersheds that Supply Water for Domestic Use at the Name of God National Park” seeks to develop a financial mechanism to ensure the sustainability of ecosystems that contribute to the welfare of approximately 17,000 people in 43 communities located in the buffer zone of the Nombre de Dios National Park, an important watershed leading directly to the MAR and Bay Islands.
  • Julio Maaz, Sustainable Fisheries Technical Coordinator at Wildlife Conservation Society's in Belize, will implement a traceability system in the fishing industry to increase the value of the sector, the sustainability of the industry and the resilience of the ecosystem and Belizean people. The project will seek to increase by 3-6% the revenue generated from the existing products. A branding and market exercise will be developed in an effort to generate higher prices.
  • Also attending sustainable fisheries issues, Isabel Martinez, Managed Access Liaison Officer at Belize Fisheries Department, is particularly interested in adding value to the fishing activity while encouraging sailing fleet in Belize to undertake sustainable practices. This initiative would help the fleet of 100 vessels to adapt to the changing market demands. It will allow the fleet to obtain higher economic returns while encouraging loyalty to their cooperative and keeping the traditional use of sailing vessels.
  • Areli Perez, Environmental Assistant at the Belize Aquaculture Ltd, will develop Belize's great potential for becoming a model for ‘Blue Economy’ in sustainable aquaculture by improving the connectivity between the different involved sectors in order to comply with higher standards and helping them in the process of certification from internationally recognized standards.
  • Executive Director of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, John Burgos, sees an opportunity to promote and communicate Blue Economy solutions while strengthening Caye Caulker's Reserve management and the development of a Learning Center that will reach national and international students and tourists.
  • In Mexico, COBI's Marine Reserves National Coordinator, Stuart Fulton, has been involved in the design and implementation of fishing replenishment zones in Quintana Roo. He has hence realized that these projects have relied on traditional philanthropic funds, which makes them vulnerable to economic changes in the medium and long term. To secure their successful future, Stuart will provide Quintana Roo’s fishing cooperatives with the information on the costs and economic benefits of maintaining a marine replenishment zone and generate replicable tools for the MAR region.
  • Alejandro Tamayo, Water Conservation Program Coordinator at Amigos de Sian Ka'an, will develop an economic valuation of Quintana Roo's karstic aquifer and associated groundwater dependent ecosystems that are linked with the MAR. He will design economic mechanisms to strengthen the programs of local ecological system, strengthen environmental legislation and promote the connection to the sewage.
  • Juan Canul, a biologist in charge of the environmental management of Ahau Hotels (four hotels), will test a model of low density and low impact tourism in Tulum by focusing on making the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems profitable for the tourism sector, securing the sector's investments as well as the marine coastal ecosystems which is key to the blue economy.
  • In the Island of Cozumel, Alejandra Tellez, a passionate consultant on sustainable eco technologies, will implement a comprehensive model that combines the best practices of sustainable social housing and eco technologies that are low cost and replicable. Local communities will be empowered and their sustainable lifestyle will promote natural resources conservation.
  • Last but no least, also from Cozumel Island, Adrian Villegas, Geochemistry PhD, seeks to launch a Blue Economy initiative that will aim at engineering novel businesses and co-management schemes allowing the sustainable exploitation of newly-generated goods and services provided by Artificial Marine Ecosystem Corridors (AMEC). He will start by conducting an economic study in artificial reefs already in place in order to obtain quantitative information that can serve to set realistic economic and conservation goals for AMEC.


The selected Fellows are currently making their travel arrangement as their training is about to begin with the 2016 MAR-L first workshop in Cancún!

Stay tuned to receive more news on our brand new cohort! 

Thank you donors for making this work possible!


For more information follows us at and



2015 MAR-L cohort Graduation
2015 MAR-L cohort Graduation

Dear friends, partners and followers,

In this second quarter of the year we have awesome news to share! Our 2015 Fellows have finalized their training cycle and graduated during their fourth workshop in Tela, Honduras. It was a week full of learning, bonding, joy, adventure and a little bit of sadness as this was their last workshop together as a cohort.

During the final workshop 2015 Fellows were introduced to local and international mangrove valuation and conservation initiatives, were trained in advocacy and strategic communications, and experienced an in situ exercise on blue carbon measurement.

Fellows presented their projects to MAR-L Executive Committee and national and international experts and strengthen the MAR Leadership network.

Special guests were invited to participate in the national and international panels including Sergio Palacios from the Ministry of Environment who discussed Honduras National Route for Climate Change and the inclusion of the coastal marine ecosystems in the legal framework. José Peralta, UNDP Coordinator at the Ministry of Environment, talked about the importance of coastal marine ecosystems in Honduras, the blue carbon initiative and its influence in Honduras mangrove protection. Mariela Ochoa, 2012 MAR-L Fellow who is Regional Coordinator at the Marine Studies Center (CEM by its Spanish acronym), shared her experience in mangrove restoration program in Guanaja; Octavio Aburto from SCRIPPS, Rupesh Bhomia from the University of Florida and Rich Wilson from Seatone Consulting, presented initiatives and success stories of mangrove valuation techniques and implementation for their conservation. They also presented the results of their research on economic valuation, shared their experience on conservation programs and exposed the existing states of mangrove health in the region.

We all had the opportunity to visit the National Park Blanca Jeannette Kawas, where Fellows had the chance to be amazed by the luxurious tropical forest, hauling monkeys and healthy elk horn coral dominated reefs. Bryan Foster from Vermont University gave a complete training on carbon estimation in mangrove forests with worldwide examples and hands-on practice which Fellows fully enjoyed.

After this thorough training on valuation and conservation of mangrove ecosystems, Fellows received a very dynamic training on advocacy and effective communication with Lori Maddox from the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) and Alejandra Serrano from the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA). During the sessions, Fellows learned about environmental-based social movements and how these causes have been communicating to impulse advocacy. They learned to recognize the importance of communication planning for the permanence of a movement and engaging stakeholders from various sectors to create a multidisciplinary team and promote a successful theory of change. Fellows developed a strategic communication plan for their own project in order to generate greater impacts.

Throughout the workshop, Honduran Fellows from previous cohorts, working now in different environmental organizations, participated in the workshop. Members of MAR-L Executive Committee were also there. 2015 MAR Fellows had the opportunity to share experiences, exchange contacts and discuss their projects, creating a valuable network.

The fourth workshop also represented the graduation of the 2015 cohort. Fellows presented their final project proposals to the national and international experts, to the MAR-L Executive Committee and their peers.

Honduras 2015 Fellows’ projects:

Anuar Romero, Coastal Marine Project UNDP / MiAmbiente, presented the project: Mangrove restoration against climate change in Cuyamel Omoa National Park (PANACO). His project will help decision making processes to establish restoration procedures in PANACO's impacted zones to tackle negative effects of climate change and agriculture pressures upon the coast line.

Mayra Núñez, Marine Studies Center–CEM, presented the project: Conservation Plan for Mangrove Forests in Natural Protected Areas of Honduras' North coast and Bay Islands. Her goal is to reduce mangrove deforestation by 60% by 2019 and promote the compliance of the legal framework outside the NPAs.

Belize 2015 Fellows’ projects:

Cecilia Guerrero, Mar Alliance, presented the project: Plan to improve mangrove conservation efforts through education and outreach program in three Belizean coastal communities. She aims to reach the different sectors of society and promote the protection of 20% of the actual cover by 2020 through a change in attitude towards mangrove importance and value.

Ralna Lewis, Wildlife Conservation Society –WCS, shared her project: Integrate mangrove conservation best practices at South Water Caye Marine Reserve, looking to promote sustainable development through mangrove conservation.

Guatemala 2015 Fellows’ projects:

César Zacarías, National Forest Institute–INAB, presented the project: Strengthen mangrove conservation in Guatemala's Caribbean coast as a measure for mitigation and climate change adaptation. Through a 5 years monitoring plan he aims to integrate mangroves in national strategies to accelerate the conservation of 50% mangrove cover.

Guillermo Gálvez, Eco Development and Conservation Foundation –FUNDAECO, shared the project: Establish the economic value of mangrove ecosystem for the sustainability of Río Sarstún fisheries (fish and shrimp). Through the analysis of fish catch stocks and monitoring their juveniles associated to mangrove, Guillermo will establish economic value to this ecosystem and will develop a participatory document for its outreach within the coastal communities.

José Domingo Caal, Aprosarstun, presented the Plan to promote community participation for mangrove ecosystem protection and conservation in Río Sarstún. His project seeks to boost community participation for the sustainable management of mangrove ecosystem through restoration of lost areas of forests and raising awareness on these ecosystem importance.

Mexico 2015 Fellows’ projects:

Blanca Quiroga, Natural Protected Areas National Commission -CONANP presented a Strategy to apply tourism as a strategy for conservation and sustainable use of mangrove in the northern Cozumel protected area. The main goal of her project is to determine the economic value of mangrove services that affect catch and release fishing and bird observation to support the decision-making process for planning, management and conservation with a participatory vision.

Carlos Zapata, Palace Resorts Hotel, shared his project: Economic valuation of carbon stocks in mangrove ecosystems and other ecosystem services and benefits associated to mangroves. The private natural reserve at Moon Palace Hotel sets a precedent in the region recognizing the importance of protecting natural capital. The aim of the project is to prove that investing in conservation is indeed profitable.

Jennifer Lara, Flora, Fauna y Cultura de México A.C., presented her ambitious project: Ecological restoration in a damaged area in the Natural Protected Area of Nichupté. Through restoration, rehabilitation of water flow, raising awareness and carbon stock studies, she aims to recover this area and replicate the experience in other areas of the NPA.

Minerva Rosette, Mexican Center for Environmental Law CEMDA, presented her project: Strengthening management of Yum Balam Natural Protected Area through a thorough environmental services economic valuation for better decision making processes and an outreach program that will reach the community and stakeholders.

Rebeca García, Palladium Hotel Group project is: Valuation of mangrove ecosystem services and the development of a Guideline on sustainable use of mangrove for the private sector (tourism). This tool will provide private sector with guidelines that will allow better understanding about mangrove importance, change paradigms between development and environment to reach equilibrium and transform mangroves as assets in tourism projects.


The workshop ended with an emotive and beautiful graduation dinner that was held by the beach, where the Fellows received their diplomas and kind words of gratefulness were shared.


MAR Leadership team wishes them good luck in their projects, their professional and personal life.

Keep up the good work!

Thank you donors for making this possible!


For more information follows us at and

Fellows presenting their projects
Fellows presenting their projects
Invited international experts panel
Invited international experts panel
Advocacy training with Lori Maddox, ELAW
Advocacy training with Lori Maddox, ELAW
Giacomo, 2012 Fellow, Roatan Marine Park Director
Giacomo, 2012 Fellow, Roatan Marine Park Director
Carbon estimation training by Dr Bryan Foster
Carbon estimation training by Dr Bryan Foster


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 to reduce human induced impacts. The report was presented simultaneously in each country on March 10th, the Mesoamerican Reef Day. To consult the complete 2016 report or the reef monitoring data base:

The complexity of the underground aquifer, the population growth, the lack of appropriate waste water treatment and the saline intrusion are growing pressures upon the Yucatan Peninsula´s clean fresh water resources. The highly permeable limestone allows a rapid transport of contaminants to the aquifer, allowing pollution to reach the reef through the underground caves, negatively impacting its health and community structure.To raise awareness about this situation, in January 25th, the local NGO Amigos de Sian Ka'an, along with authorities from the three levels of government and members of the community, launched a communication campaign "You are water, be conscious". The campaign seeks to promote conservation of Quintana Roo's aquifer through information, awareness and active participation of the different sectors of the community. Monica Alba, 2014 MAR Leadership Fellow, participated in the elaboration of the campaign content and visual support, in coordination with specialists from social, private and public sector. The materials will be available digitally as well as printed in order to reach the urban and rural communities of the state.

The International Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium (ITMEMS, is organized by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) in complement to the International Coral Reef Symposium, providing a forum for the world coral reefs and related ecosystems managers. The symposium has been designed to work on solving marine ecosystem management issues at a local level, providing useful tools and practices in each session. Thanks to the support of the Ministry of Environment of Japan and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), 2011 MAR Fellow from Mexico, Gabriela Nava, had the opportunity to participate in the Symposium. During the ITMEMS 5, CEO of Oceanus A.C,Gabriela, was part of a group of 50 selected professionals from all over the world to review ICRI´s reef management tools of each country. The results will soon be published in the proceedings of the event.

As part of her work at the Division of Solid Waste Management Authority for Sustainable Watershed Management and Lake Amatitlan (AMSA), Joanna Giron (2014 Fellow, Guatemala)is involved in projects to rescue the lake and its major tributaries. The municipal waste water treatment plant will be rehabilitated in order to diminish sediment and nutrient contamination that will end up in the Lake Amatitlan. It is an interinstitutional project that will include several municipalities. 

Upcoming events...

2016 MAR Leadership Program Call for Applications

The MAR Leadership team is currently actively working on the upcoming 2016 call for applications. The team has been interviewing professionals from the region and experts on blue economy, in order to pin point areas of opportunities, profiles and the theme's special needs in the area. The 2016 MAR Leadership 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 to raise awareness on the importance of the blue economy concept. The call for application is planned to be released at the beginning of April through our different social networks.

Fourth Workshop and Graduation of the 2015 MAR-L cohort

The fourth and final 2015 cohort workshop will be held from May, 28th to June, 5th in Tela, Honduras. The workshop will be focused on advocacy training and environmental policies with the participation of two amazing experts: Lori Maddox, Associate Director of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide ELAW- and Alejandra Serrano from CEMDA. This training will build up Fellows' capacities in these important topics and give them tools to promote better public policies. Special guests include Octavio Aburto, Director of the Gulf of California Marine Program. He is an Assistant Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and a professional photographer associate with the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Economic Tools for Conservation of Nature - Mexico and the Mesoamerican Reef 2016

In 2016, the third edition of the course Economic Tools for Conservation of Nature will focus on coastal marine ecosystems and fisheries. The course will be held in the Campus of Colorado State University, located in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, from 6 to 17 June. Applicants do not require training in economics or finance, but a deep understanding of the environmental problems they face in their country. Interested candidates must complete the online application form no later than Friday, April 1, 2016. Space is limited to 30 participants and the results of the selection will be announced on April 6. Economic Tools for Conservation of Nature has been designed by Conservation Strategy (CSF), who in coordination with the Institute of Ecology and Biological Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Community and Biodiversity (COBI) and Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN), they organized the course in Mexico for the first time in 2014.


Thank you so much for your amazing support

Without your help any of all these great news would have been possible!

Stay tuned for more news on our website

Fellows 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


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!


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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Organization Information

Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturale

Location: Mexico D.F., Distrito Federal - Mexico
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Maria Eugenia Arreola
Mexico, Distrito Federal Mexico
$11,504 raised of $30,000 goal
147 donations
$18,496 to go
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