Stretching for 600 miles (965 kilometers) along the coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, the Mesoamerican Reef is the second longest in the world and supports a wealth of marine life including 500 species of fish and 60 species of coral.
The region’s tropical climate and white sand beaches have given rise to a tourism industry that draws millions of visitors each year. In the past five years alone, the number of hotel rooms in the area has increased by 40 percent. Along with the influx of tourists, the steady migration of workers seeking employment has placed enormous pressure on the Mesoamerican Reef. Contaminants from land and marine-based activities, wastewater discharge and direct interaction with the reef can destroy the coral and threaten marine life, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests. The poorly managed development not only threatens the reef but the two million people in Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala who rely on the reef for their income, cultural identity and livelihoods.
MesoAmerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI)
In response to these concerns, the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative, or MARTI, was established in 2006. MARTI is joint initiative of NGOs, the tourism industry and the state government of Quintana Roo.
Since it’s founding, MARTI has engaged hotels, restaurants, cruise ships and marine recreation providers in the adoption of responsible practices to reduce negative impacts on the reef. In addition to Sustainable Travel International, which serves as secretariat for MARTI, partners include Amigos de Sian Ka’an, Riviera Maya Hotel Association, Coral Reef Alliance, Rainforest Alliance and Grupo Intersectorial Isla Cozumel.