The short story
CORAL began working in Mexico in the popular tourist destinations of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, both well known for offering incredible diving experiences. We chose Playa del Carmen to hold a pilot workshop to implement local conservation projects. In Cozumel, the established national marine park needed help being more effective as a protected area for coral reefs. We also implemented the CORAL Reef Leadership Network, which helped expand our capacity for environmental and best practices education.
More progress in Mexico
In 2013, CORAL continued to strengthen marine recreation standards and reef etiquette with hotels. We completed 13 Environmental Walk-Through (EWT) assessments and two reassessments for marine recreation providers in Cozumel, trained 22 marine recreation providers and 166 people on sustainable marine recreation, and worked with marine parks to better understand diver and marine recreation provider behavior. We also placed 500 copies of reef etiquette materials in large hotels in Cozumel.
Building trust and cooperation in Cozumel
CORAL’s Sustainable Marine Recreation Environmental Walk-Through Program has built conservation capacity in the marine tourism sector, improved relations among resource managers and marine recreation providers, and identified industry needs and challenges that were limiting adoption of sustainable business practices. To build trust and rapport with marine tourism providers, CORAL engaged in extensive outreach and relationship building with the private sector. By allaying the common fear that CORAL and its partner organization Conservation International were only seeking to expose “bad practices” and threaten marine tourism marketing efforts, CORAL was able to secure active participation from the majority of cruise contractors in the area. This acceptance and enthusiasm for CORAL’s program marked a fundamental step toward achieving the long-term vision of industry-wide adoption of marine recreation standards.
Cozumel Marine Park
To assess how to best support MPA effectiveness in Cozumel, CORAL engaged in a robust gap analysis to better match needs to action. The gap analysis provided CORAL with a road map for action that resulted in greater participation from local people who play active roles in reef conservation and benefit most from reef protection. Involving marine tourism businesses, local fishermen, and NGOs in the process of updating the marine park management plan is allowing old wounds to heal and building constructive partnerships and mutual accountability in the management and proper use of park resources.
CORAL Reef Leadership Network
When you teach tourists how to act responsibly around coral reefs, the resulting behavior significantly reduces negative tourism impacts on reefs. CORAL has developed an innovative approach to delivering information about coral-friendly practices to both marine tourism operators and people visiting reef areas.
Examples of progress
- By following recommendations made during their environmental performance assessments, tourism businesses have increased their assessment scores by 50 percent.
- Several private companies have adopted the Voluntary Standards for Marine Recreation into their mission statements.
- The CORAL Reef Leadership Network has become the official training program for tour guides operating within Cozumel Reefs National Park. CORAL Reef Leaders have trained more than 450 tour guides in sustainable marine recreation.
- MPA management plans have been reviewed through a stakeholder process to recommend updated strategies and consider inclusion of sustainable marine recreation standards as regulations.