Sustainable Travel International forms partnership with Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP) to protect the Mesoamerican Reef
The new partnership will harness the power of tourism to conserve the world’s second largest reef system
CANCUN (25 June, 2019) – Today, Mexico’s National Protected Area Commission (CONANP) entered into a strategic partnership with Sustainable Travel International, a global non-profit organization dedicated to conserving the planet’s most vulnerable destinations. The partnership was formalized at the Sustainable and Social Tourism Summit in Cancun. Through this partnership, Sustainable Travel International and CONANP aim to transform reef conservation in the Mexican Caribbean by engaging tourists and local communities in monitoring, protecting, and creating awareness about the Mesoamerican Reef.
The Mesoamerican Reef is the world’s second largest reef system, stretching 600 miles along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. This immense and biodiverse ecosystem sustains the region’s tourism industry by attracting visitors, creating jobs, and protecting coastal areas from storms. Every year, more than 12 million people travel to Mexico’s Caribbean coast, many of whom participate in reef-based activities such as diving and snorkeling. In turn, the reef supports the livelihoods of nearly 2 million people and generates $6.2 billion in annual economic returns.
While tourism provides valuable economic benefits, it also places added pressure on the Mesoamerican Reef – an ecosystem that is already in a fragile state due to climate change, unsustainable fishing, and pollution. According to the 2018 Healthy Reefs report card, over half of the reef is in poor or critical condition. In June 2018, scientists discovered a rapidly spreading coral disease outbreak, known as “Síndrome Blanco,” that is killing over 20 coral species on the reef. Approximately 30% of affected coral species have already died, some of which took hundreds of years to grow.
The new partnership between CONANP and Sustainable Travel International seeks to protect the reef’s 900+ marine species from these devastating impacts and ensure the prosperity of communities that depend on the reef. Through this collaboration, Sustainable Travel International and CONANP will devise practical and innovative solutions that harness the power of Mexico’s booming tourism industry as a vehicle for reef conservation.
One such solution that is currently being piloted in the region is Sustainable Travel International’s Natural Environment Marine Observers (NEMO) program. NEMO is a citizen-science program that empowers visitors to contribute to the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef by:
- Raising awareness about the reef and how to conserve it;
- Collecting monitoring data for marine scientists on reef health and threats; and
- Funding reef conservation expeditions by a response team comprised of CONANP, Healthy Reefs Initiative, and BARCO LAB, to eradicate threats and keep the reef healthy.
Through the NEMO program, the partnership aims to reduce human impacts on the reef and ensure long-term economic opportunity for the millions of local people who depend on it. In addition to using monitoring data to take actions that reduce contamination, eradicate coral disease, and restore ecosystem balance, the partnership will prioritize ground-up education for the many young people who will shape the future of Caribbean tourism.
“Conserving a marine destination as expansive and biodiverse as the Mesoamerican Reef is no small task. We realized that there is a tremendous untapped opportunity to engage the people who are out exploring these places in protecting them,” says Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International. “Through this partnership with CONANP, that’s exactly what we aspire to do – link tourism and conservation to chart a new course for the Mesoamerican Reef.”
Sustainable Travel International
About Sustainable Travel International
Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and conserving our planet’s most vulnerable destinations. We are transforming tourism’s impact on nature and people by working alongside local communities, engaging travelers and businesses in responsible practices, and strengthening destination management. Through our work, we aim to safeguard nature, combat climate change, empower communities, and tackle overtourism to preserve the integrity of destinations around the globe. To learn more visit www.sustainabletravel.org
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The Mexican National Protected Area Commission (CONANP) works to conserve the natural heritage of Mexico and the ecological processes of 182 Natural Protected Areas (ANP), bringing together conservation goals with goals to protect the well-being of local populations and visitors to these areas.
Natural Protected Areas are marine and land environments that host a great variety of living beings. Throughout 19 years of operation, CONANP has driven multiple conservation initiatives and strengthened the sustainable management of the biodiversity found in ANP’s.