Help Local Leaders Save the Mesoamerican Reef

by Fondo Mexicano para la Conservacion de la Naturale
Sign the pledge!
Sign the pledge!

Mesoamerican Reef Day: sign the Tulum+ 20 pledge!

Today, March, 10th, we celebrate a very special day for us: the Mesoamerican Reef Day!

Being one the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, the Mesoamerican Reef is is the world’s largest transboundary barrier reef, home to two million people from different cultures. Collaboration efforts among the four countries started 20 years ago in 1997, when the heads of State of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras singed the Tulum Declaration to promote MAR conservation through its sustainable use. Although great work has been done towards its protection were born since then, the MAR still faces great challenges and needs the renewed commitment from the four countries' authorities. This is why MAR Fund and MAR Leadership Program/FMCN launch the Tulum+20 pledge.

Mesoamerican Reef Day: know our incredible backyard!

The Mesoamerican Reef system (MAR or MBRS) is the world’s largest transboundary barrier reef, encompassing 1000 km of coastline, from the northeast end of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, to the Bay Islands in Honduras. The MAR ecoregion includes oceanic habitats, coastal zones, tropical forests, and the Caribbean draining watersheds of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The area is extremely important biologically and economically, with coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves that provide resources and critical protection against tropical storms. Over two million people including Garifunas, Qeqchi, Maya, and Creole live in the ecoregion and depend on the integrity and resilience of the reef in order to maintain their livelihoods, as well as the national economies of the four countries.

The main threats to the MAR are well known –local land-based pollution sources such as solid waste, municipal and industrial sewage, effluents from shrimp farming and agriculture, and severe overfishing to poor coastal & tourism development and global threats such as climate change (including increase in ocean temperature, coral bleaching, acidification, etc.). Current environmental problems need effective multinational responses.

The Tulum Declaration: an international commitment to protect the MAR 

As a continuation of the dialogue and cooperation between Central America and Mexico, initiated through the Tuxtla Agreements and following up the International Year of Coral Reefs, the Mesoamerican Reef System initiative was made official in June 5, 1997, when the heads of state of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, and Belize signed the Tulum Declaration where they agreed to promote the conservation of the reef system through its sustainable use, thereby contributing to the welfare of present and future generations. 

The MAR region has become a global leader in adaptive management and the active implementation of management actions that are now starting to show ecological results. The MAR now boasts a network of more than 65 coastal and marine protected areas, and almost all of them are under active management. Thirty-six percent of the territorial sea in the MAR is within protected areas, although only 3% is fully protected from fishing. In Belize, spawning aggregations are protected; reef-associated herbivorous fish are protected in Belize, Guatemala, and the Bay Islands of Honduras; a region-wide ban on shark finning has been implemented, and no-take protected areas acting as fish refuges are being created to recover ecosystems and commercial fisheries. Although the advances over the past 20 years are substantial, more needs to be done to protect the MAR from continuing threats to the natural capital it embodies. 

COP 13 of CBD: a platform to renew the commitment

The COP 13 that was held in Cancun in December 2016, where about 10,000 participants gathered to negotiate agreements and commitments that promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. (read our post: link blog COP)

As the host of such important event, Mexico announced the establishment of four new Natural Protected Areas and five Safeguard Areas, placing an additional 65 million hectares under protection. The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, the largest marine protected area off the coast of Quintana Roo (5.7 million hectares), will protect almost 50% of the Mesoamerican reef system, where hydrocarbon exploration and extraction will be prohibited. With this action, Mexico has not only joined the small group of countries that have met the Aichi Target to protect 10% of its marine territory, but more than doubled this goal by protecting 23%.

During the COP13, MAR Fund, Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, AC (FMCN)/ Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR-L) and HRI organized two events called Tulum +20 Declaration for the Mesoamerican Reef and Well-being and Blue Economy attended by 130 people in total. Representatives from both state and municipal governments, Civil Society Organizations (CSO), and academia attended both events. In both events achievements in conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, regional mechanisms as drivers of change in the Mesoamerican Reef since the Declaration of Tulum in 1997 were presented.

Tulum+20: a pledge for Blue Economy to protect the MAR

Although the MAR countries' ministers did not attend the Tulum +20 events, we put forth the idea to gather one million signatures from throughout the MAR region to call for the ratification of the Tulum Declaration. On June 5 of 2017, 20 years will have passed since Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras first committed to conserving the Mesoamerican Reef System through its sustainable use.

Now, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras need to take their commitment to the MAR a step further. Currently, four pressing concerns threaten to drastically hurt the health of the MAR: discharge of effluents and contaminants, including sewage; unsustainable coastal development, including mangrove destruction; chronic pressure on fisheries and insufficient enforcement, and climate change impacts on the reef.

To address these threats, the Governments of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras must pledge to protect the reef through renewing the commitment to the Tulum Declaration and take actions to ensure the health of the reef and the people that depend on it. These actions will preserve the resources and natural processes that are the basis for propelling the Blue Economy as the foundation of the sustainable development of the four countries and the region.

Join us and sign the petition to tell the heads of state of the four countries to renew the Tulum Declaration and commit to the reef!

The MAR: cultural and biological treasure
The MAR: cultural and biological treasure
Adaptative management in MPAs
Adaptative management in MPAs
Raise your voice
Raise your voice


2016 MARL cohort at first workshop
2016 MARL cohort at first workshop

Dear friends, partners and followers,

Fall has been full of activities for our Fellows and MAR Leadership team!

First workshop of the 2016 cohort on Blue Economy

In September was held the first workshop of the 2016 cohort on Blue Economy. During this first meeting, MAR Leadership Team and Fellows had the opportunity to meet each other and learn about the importance of economic basics for natural resources conservation.  Dr. Charles Colgan, Research Director at the Center for Blue Economy in Monterrey, CA, talked about the Blue Economy approach, its components and opportunities to integrate natural capital into the economy of the region. Experts from Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) taught Fellows the economic basics through theory and case studies. Mentors were surprised about how ambitious proved all projects to be, provided feedback and raised questions to Fellows in order to identify their needs, adapt their future training and direct them towards more akin economic tools for their projects. Mexican Fellows from former cohorts participated: they shared their experiences with the 2016 cohort, thus strengthening the network of MAR Leadership. The third phase of the workshop addressed the self-knowledge and use of a behavioral analysis tool called Personal Development Analysis (PDA) by Psychologist Carlos Terzano. 

What are fellows up to?

2016 Fellows are currently working on their projects' situational analysis and theory of change. CSF mentors are reviewing their reports and adapting their training based on each Fellow’s need. Each economic tool used or proposed by Fellows is going to be analyzed and developed during the next workshops. 

Synergies are already taking place within the 2016 cohort: Diana Vasquez, from the Center for Marine Studies in Honduras invited Isabel Martinez from Belize Fisheries Department to exchange experiences about Manage Access Program in La Ceiba, Honduras. Key collaborators from the Forest Institute, the Fisheries Authorities and Marine Park Managers assisted the workshop where Isabel presented the tools used in Belize to regulate artisanal fisheries and secure the marine resources for a sustainable development of the country.

7 MAR Fellows and MAR Leadership staff were actively participating at the Healthy Reef Initiative (HRI) annual Meeting of Partners: Ian Drysdale, 2010 Fellow, and Diana Vasquez, 2016 Fellow from Honduras, Ana Giró and Blanca García, 2011 Fellows, Angela Mojica, 2012 Fellow from Guatemala, Nicanor Requena, 2011 Fellow from Belize and Stuart Fulton, 2016 Fellow from Mexico. The results of the monitoring season, conservation initiatives around the MAR were discussed and suggestions to the HRI team for the design of the 2017 Report Card were provided. Professionals from organizations of civil society, government and academia of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico were invited.

We are also very glad to share with you that Melissa Alvarez' project, 2014 MAR Fellow from Guatemala, is being implemented! Her guidelines for municipal solid waste management in Montaua watershed have been published and workshops are being organized in order to communicate and reach a maximum audience. After her participation in the National Policy on Solid Waste earlier this year, Melissa is successfully finalizing this part of her project and we feel very proud to have been part of this important initiative which will positively affect the life of thousands and the MAR's ecosystems. 

Céline Cousteau in Mexico

Mexican Fund for Nature (FMCN in Spanish) and MAR Leadership had the great honor to organize the visit of world celebrity conservationist Céline Cousteau. Céline Cousteau has explored several of the most remote corners of the planet- from deep inside the Amazon, out to the Galapagos Islands and down to Antarctica. From these journeys she has drawn the inspiration to become the voice of what she has witnessed. Through film, art, design, education and technology Céline pursues the storytelling legacy of her grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Declared by International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the most irreplaceable areas in terms of biodiversity, the state of the Vale do Javari indigenous territory impacts each and every one of us, every breathe we take. Céline's last production, Tribes on the Edge, was born from a call of Vale do Javari's people. Céline presented a preview of her documentary for several audiences while she was in Mexico, followed by an education and engagement campaign to help raise awareness on the conditions of life of the tribes in Amazon and the world. Céline Cousteau was very pleased with the experience and expressed her wishes to follow up this collaboration with MAR Leadership Program.

The Thirteenth Meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, COP 13

In 1992, United Nations member countries or parties, as they are also known, met in Rio de Janeiro to discuss environmental and development issues. The meeting was also called Earth Summit and in this context, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was born. Parties recognized that protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services was one of the priorities for human future and sustainable development. Since then, several Conferences of the Parties (COPs) have been held to follow up on the implementation of the CBD. From these meetings, or COP, the Nagoya Protocols on Fair Access to Genetic Resources, and Cartagena on Biosafety, have emerged.

The Thirteenth Meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, COP 13, is being held in Cancun this early December to emphasize the integration of Aichi targets in the public policies of the countries. Biodiversity conservation and sustainable use will be part of the policies and programs of the different productive sectors that are directly related to the use of biodiversity (agriculture, tourism, fisheries and forestry).

FMCN and MAR Leadership team worked actively to organize side events to take advantage on the numerous participation of representatives from countries, civil society organizations and business people to communicate their visions and missions in Mexico and the MAR region. Two sides events were organized around the theme Tulum+20: Securing wellbeing in the Mesoamerican Reef through a Blue Economy, one was open access outside the security area of COP 13 and the other one inside the main building of the conference. Healthy Reef Initiative and MARFund were partner organizations. After the welcoming remarks by the Director General for Wildlife at SEMANART, Government of Mexico, successful regional initiatives were presented by MAR Fellows Ana Giró from HRI Guatemala, Ian Drysdale from HRI Honduras and Gaby Nava from Oceanus, Mexico. During this presentation, MAR Leadership Program Director, showcased Fellows' successful stories through their training and acquired capacities in their professional and personal lives. MARFund Director also member of MAR Leadership executive committee, discussed about the challenges and opportunities for financing conservation in the region. Events were followed by coral restauration initiatives slideshow and a sustainable lobster/lion fish cocktail.

A third event was organized in collaboration with Mexican Center of Environmental Law (CEMDA in Spanish), where 2015 MAR Fellow Minerva Rosette works. This event about Mainstreaming Blue Carbon for Conservation and Sustainable Development highlighted the importance of integrating blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, marshes and seagrasses) in biodiversity conservation actions as a means to achieving the welfare of communities which needs to be widely communicated. International experts on Blue Carbon had the opportunity to share their experience and present case studies to close the gap between UNFCCC and CBD in order to integrate the blue carbon concept into policies. A Blue Carbon video was screened on this occasion.

The events were a sound success as the expected number of attendees was overreached and important people, such as the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources from the Government of Mexico, Rafael Pacchiano and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources from Quintana Roo, Alfredo Arellano attended.

Fellows at COP 13 of CBD:

Mexican Fellows Vicente Ferreyra (2010), Kim Ley Cooper and Joaquin de la Torre (2011) and Belizean Fellow Leonel Requena (2012) have been very active during COP13 event participating in panels and presenting a number of side events. Vicente, with his organization Sustentur, successfully took advantage of this great opportunity to mainstream sustainable tourism for ecosystem protection and rural communities’ inclusion. Through a series of events, inside and outside the COP13 main event, Vicente has reached hundreds of international and national tourism and conservation experts.

Joaquin, with his organization International Fund for Animal Welfare and several partners, (the Jane Goodall Institute, Youth for Wildlife Conservation and CITES among others) organized numerous side events and an exhibit booth. Engagement of youth, collaborations of NGOs, animal welfare and human wellbeing as new ways of changing attitudes and enhance biodiversity were the main objectives of the passionate events.

On the sustainable fisheries field, Kim organized side events and participated in several panels to communicate actively on the importance of biodiversity protection and good practices in order to secure food security for the future generation. Guidelines were elaborated in collaboration with UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and Mexican Authorities and presented to ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean to promote sustainable practices against climate change and stop ecosystems degradation. He also presented several local initiatives such as the Chakay Lobster, part of his MARL project, and lion fish control in Quintana Roo.

Leonel Requena presented the landscape/seascape work done on marine spatial planning in Belize empowering local communities. Involving indigenous communities, mainly relying on the small scale fisheries for their livelyhoods, in understanding and undertaking conservation measures is the strongest way to successfully implement resources management initiatives. Leonel was invited to represent Mesoamerica in the group discussions.

As you can see, MAR Leadership team and Fellows have been very active this fall!

We want thank our great donors who gave our organization tremendous support during #GivingTuesday and all year round, you make all our work possible!

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and peaceful New Year!

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CSF expert on economic tools training
CSF expert on economic tools training
HRI partners meeting: spot the Fellows!
HRI partners meeting: spot the Fellows!
Managed Access workshop in Honduras
Managed Access workshop in Honduras
Celine Cousteau in Cancun
Celine Cousteau in Cancun
Kim Ley Cooper at COP 13 on CBD
Kim Ley Cooper at COP 13 on CBD


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!


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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!


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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



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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
$11,510 raised of $30,000 goal
148 donations
$18,490 to go
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