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Possible southern reef closure

Discussion in 'Cozumel' started by gopbroek, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. gopbroek

    gopbroek Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Lewisville TX
    Anyone have any detailed information on reef closures within the marine park that are supposed to go into effect? I am understanding that official announcement is supposed to come out on Monday the park is going to close the southern portion from Palancar around to Isote on the other side starting in October and possibly will re-open in January. Basically the southernmost accessible reef would be Cedral or possibly Francessa.

    The statement I have seen was:
    Dear Members:

    At the meeting on Tuesday , September 17, the Marine Park Advisory Council voted unanimously, that for the sake of the reef, Polígono No. 1 will be closed, from the concrete pier south of Playa Palancar to Punta Chiqueros on the other side of the island.

    This is not going to solve the White Syndrome but the coral and el Cielo will be release from stress, it will be a month-to-month monitoring and in January 2020 will be consider the reopening of the area mention above.

    The criterion of precautionary action in a protected natural area, conservation and as a world heritage site is the same criteria that apply to human health.

    If you see that the patient is deteriorating, precautionary measures are taken before it deteriorates further or causes death.

    That is why it was decided to give the Palancar and the rest of the reefs to the south a Vacation.

    This will help also to review what is happening with the wastewater disposal of hotels and Beach Clubs in the south.
    The sanitation measures of sewage in these hotels are based on not affecting the health of humans but are not based to protect the reef in front of them.

    The National Guard, the SEMAR and the Harbour Master undertook to strengthen surveillance by standing guard on that pier to prevent the passage of vessels.

    There will be a 15-day advertising and socialization campaign for Cozumel to find out about it.

    It was not a unilateral decision of CONANP, it was a decision of the civil society of Cozumel.
    - Consignee Agencies
    -Hotel Association
    -Tour Operators
    -Capitanía de Puerto
    -State Goverment
    -Municipal government

    Next Monday, Sept. 23 a Press Conference will be given to publicize the details of this action

  2. ggunn

    ggunn ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Austin, TX, USA
    In my admittedly relatively uneducated opinion this will accomplish nothing. The Cozumel reefs are continually being washed by the prevailing current flowing from the south; It seems to me that if diving the reefs were contributory to the White Blight, the southernmost reefs would be the least affected and it would get progressively worse the further north you go. To the best of my knowledge such is not the case.

    Additionally, another effect of this will be to make all the other reefs much more crowded with divers; if diving the reefs is a contributing factor, it will just concentrate the problem on the other reefs.

    And furthermore, if Palancar and points south are closed to diving, it will make Cozumel far less desirable as a dive destination, so I guess it will reduce diver traffic on the reefs, which (back to my original point) IMO will benefit no one.
    louisa1960, Dan G, drrich2 and 5 others like this.
  3. El Graduado

    El Graduado Manta Ray

    I wondered how long it would take for this news to be discussed on ScubaBoard. It took much longer than I thought it would for someone to post about it.

    Here is the info:

    The Consejo Asesor del Parque Marino voted unanimously to close down the southern restricted area of the Cozumel National Underwater Park for three months, starting on October 15, 2019. At the end of the three-month period, the situation will be re-evaluated. They may lift the ban then, they may extend it, or they may make it a three-month-long ban that takes place yearly at this time. Too early to tell yet.

    The southern restricted area is the orange section of the map shown below. The solid band of orange is the “Talud Insular” (island shelf zone) and the stippled orange area is the “Zona Arreficial” (reef zone). The area to be closed (clockwise from southeast to southwest) includes: El Islote, Punta Celarain, Maracaibo Reef, Chunchaka’ab Reef, Punta Sur, Colombia Reef, El Cielo and the parts of Palancar Reef that are south from the concrete pier at Palancar Beach. That is the pier just south from Playa Palancar Beach Club. The latitude and longitude of the pier/demarcation line starting point on shore is 20°21'5.60"N, 87° 1'19.63"W. The north border of the southern restricted zone runs due west from that point.

    They are closing it down due to what they call an “emergency situation” which includes, but is not limited to:

    1. The lack of park guarda-parques (park rangers) due to retirements
    2. The chronic lack of funding for hiring park rangers
    3. The overwhelming number of illegal dive operations taking divers to the park. By illegal, they mean dive operations that don’t have park permits and/or are not a tax-paying Mexican business, but are “working under the table”, often with illegal immigrants (Yep, they have lots of those in Mexico, too!) and are basically ignoring park rules.
    4. The large number of legal operators who still allow their divers to:
    A. Wear gloves
    B: Carry spears
    C. Carry metal prods
    D. Touch the coral
    E. Drag their fins on the coral
    F. Let their dangles bang the coral
    G. Hold onto coral to keep steady for photograph
    5. The huge number of operators (legal and illegal) that are taking tourists to El Cielo and allowing them to handle the starfish
    6. The coral disease that is killing the reefs
    7. The sewage runoff from beach clubs and hotels

    The rules of the park have always allowed for re-evaluations of the use/abuse of the restricted areas and for their temporary or permanent closure to give them a chance to recoup from overuse. Annex 1, Administrative Rules Section, part 4 of SEMARNAP’s rules for the park administration says: Zona I. Uso Restringido Esta zona abarca sitios que por sus condiciones oceanográficas, interacción con habitats adyacentes (como manglares y lagunas costeras), así como por su relevancia como reservorio genético y aporte de propágulos (etapas larvarias, alevines, juveniles, etc.) deben permanecer en el estado más prístino, por lo cual únicamente se permitirán actividades compatibles con las prioridades de conservación y ecoturismo, con acceso restringido en espacio, tiempo y número de visitantes. Con base en estudios científicos específicos, estas áreas podrán ser cerradas al acceso del público en general durante el tiempo que la Secretaría de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca lo determine.

    The “restricted southern area” is a special area of the park with special rules, as outlined in the paragraph above. Recent studies by UNAM indicated it should be closed for a while to see if it can regenerate from the damage it has sustained, as well as the pressure it is undergoing from the coral disease that has damaged 40% to 70% of Paradise Reef and other reefs to lesser extents.

    I strongly suspect, however, that if enough ruckus is made over this (and I don’t mean rants posted on ScubaBoard, which won’t be of any use at all) that it causes the “powers that be” in Mexico City to allow for more of the money collected by the Cozumel Reef Park (i.e., wrist band $) to flow back to Cozumel so that they could hire enough guarda-parques (rangers), the ban will be lifted. As I posted here on ScubaBoard before, all the money Cozumel collects from divers goes straight to Mexico City and then gets spread out over all national parks and protected areas. Cozumel collects and sends in much, much more money than is sent back to the island for park operating expenses.

    It is a national park. It is a national, natural resource. It should be protected. Operators with no park permits are carrying hundreds of divers each month into the park to do what they will, with no repercussions. Some operators WITH permits are also turning a blind-eye to what their paying customers do to the reef and the sea life in the park.

    How will they keep all operators out of that part of the park during the ban when they couldn’t keep the just the un-permitted people out the whole park before the ban? I know that the port captain, the police, and the navy were involved in the meeting that resulted in the ban. I imagine it will be easier for the Mexican Navy to enforce a total ban on the southern part than it is for a couple of guarda-parque boats to cover the whole park checking the documents of as many boats as they can in the morning dive session.

    There are plenty of other reefs in the park north of the restricted area that will remain open to diving and water sports. There are plenty of great dive operations on Cozumel. This effort to work out the problems that have been plaguing the Reef Park should not stop anyone from coming down to Cozumel and having a great dive vacation.

    pier x.jpg

    In other news, the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur) announced that it has suspended the sale of properties at the Cozumel Fonatur marina, after being unable to sell nearly three-quarters of them. Fonatur’s legal director said the agency “will change its development plan for the marina, retaining ownership of the land while allowing (I read ‘hoping’) investors to build businesses, including hotels, malls, residential developments and restaurants.”
  4. ReefHound

    ReefHound Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Houston, TX
    I agree with Gordon. Besides, if they want to reduce the stress on the southern reefs they would need to close the southern resorts.
    soldsoul4foos and Christi like this.
  5. MMM

    MMM ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Sask. Canada/Cozumel, MX
    Boy, that is going to make diving VERY crowded in the "allowed" areas, and probably REALLY stress those areas. I can't see this flying for very long.
  6. Dave Dillehay

    Dave Dillehay Dive Shop

    Now the lion fish will control the restricted area. Good Reason to go the pristine north and clean them out there.

    Dave Dillehay
  7. ReefHound

    ReefHound Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Houston, TX
    Are tehy closing the southern resorts and beach clubs to pause the sewage runoff? I could be wrong but it seems like the effects on the reef from that are 1000x any that divers have. They seem to be targetting the wrong group. Keep it up and kill the goose.
    Christi and CajunDiva like this.
  8. ReefHound

    ReefHound Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Houston, TX
    So all the divers that booked Iberostar and other southern resorts from October to January are just SOL?
  9. Steelyeyes

    Steelyeyes Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Kralendijk, Bonaire
    With all of the cruise ships coming to port and the fees paid on a per passenger basis for access to the island that there would be tons of pesos to pay for all the rangers they need to enforce any and all regulations they have.

    I did a search on the fees and found an interesting opinion from 11 years back. At that time Cozumel had the highest port fees in the Caribbean and this person's opinion was that it would price them out of the market. I guess they were wrong. Seems like a couple of new docks have been built to cater to the cruise lines since. Does anyone know where all of that money goes?
  10. El Graduado

    El Graduado Manta Ray

    None of it goes to operating the reef park or hiring rangers. It all leaves the island and then some is sent back, but none goes to the reef park.

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