The Short Story
CORAL's two current program sites in Mexico are located in the major tourism destinations of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, both of which are well known for offering incredible diving experiences. As increasing popularity and lack of education about sustainable tourism began to take its toll, CORAL chose Playa del Carmen as a pilot workshop location to implement local stakeholder conservation projects now underway. In Cozumel, the established national marine park needed assistance in connecting its goals to the community to make it more effective as a protected area for coral reefs. CORAL used its innovative checklist as a means of forging connections and building a vision of cooperation to expand local capacity for conservation. In addition, the CORAL Reef Leadership Network is now active in Mexico, offering an expanded reach for environmental and best practices education in the country.
More Progress in Mexico
In early January, 2006, CORAL conducted the first pilot site workshop in Playa del Carmen, where participants identified perceived threats to their reefs and collaborated on conservation initiatives to address the identified threats. CORAL is following up this workshop with microgrants and technical assistance to help stakeholders implement their various conservation projects.
Building Trust and Cooperation in Cozumel
In Cozumel, recent explosive growth of mass tourism and global coral reef stress have led to the rapid decline of the island’s reefs. In response, the Mexican government established the Cozumel National Marine Park in 1996; however, the park's resource managers lacked the necessary staffing, infrastructure, and financial resources to effectively carry out its mandate of reef protection. Lack of private sector and community support for the park has also been problematic.
CORAL's ambitious Sustainable Marine Recreation Environmental Walk-Through Program made rapid progress in building conservation capacity in the marine tourism sector, improving relations among resource managers and marine recreation providers, and identifying industry needs and challenges that limit widespread 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 early 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. Read more »
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.