Skip to content. | Skip to navigation



by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 10, 2013 12:09 PM

Country Programs: Mexico



The economic and governance situations in Mexico have rapidly grown in recent years. Changes in public administration and finance, decentralized planning and coastal development create challenges for the stewardship of Mexico's critical coastal ecosystems. Growth with quality is now a national goal, but the challenge of balancing the need for economic development with responsible management of natural resources and respect for local residents remains. Outside of Mexico's system of protected areas there is little experience with integrated coastal management (ICM). While there are promising signs -- policy tools such as local ecological ordinances are being developed, and there is increasing interest on the part of officials, the private sector and resource users in ICMÃ -- tangible examples of what ICM can accomplish in the Mexican context are few, and just beginning to emerge.






In the Gulf of California, coastal management must address an intriguing variety of issues including desert islands, tourism, aquaculture and agriculture, These require integrated and innovative approaches to planning and implementation.



Conserving Critical Coastal Ecosystems in Mexico

Within this context, the Coastal Resources Management Program (CRMP) is attempting to demonstrate how a coastal management approach can meaningfully contribute to the conservation of critical coastal ecosystems in two ecologically important coastal areas: Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Gulf of California. The cumulative impacts of tourism growth are having a major impact on valuable reefs and wetland ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula. In the Gulf of California, key coastal industries of fisheries, agriculture, tourism and aquaculture are also leaving their heavy imprint on the fragile systems of desert islands and mangrove-fringed estuaries. In both areas, the cumulative impacts of coastal development, with many agencies and stakeholders involved, require new and integrated planning processes, decisionmaking and implementation strategies. The approach of CRMP is to:

  • Demonstrate the utility of ICM processes and plans for selected sites that transcend the boundaries of established protected areas
  • Define and promote good management practices for mariculture and tourism development
  • Build capacity and experience in the practice of ICM

The primary partners in Quintana Roo are the Amigos de Sian Ka'an (ASK) and the University of Quintana Roo (UQROO). In the Gulf of California, the key partner is Conservation International/Mexico (CIMEX).

In Quintana Roo, a state whose development in the 1970s was driven by the mass tourism model of Cancun, there is a general understanding that tourism depends on the state's pristine natural resources and marine biodiversity. However, the existing tools that guide development are not designed for or implemented within an integrated framework to ensure a balance between conservation and development.


Responding to the initiation of new tourism corridors, the Normas Praicticas para el Desarollo Turistico (Guidelines for Low-Impact Tourism) were developed and are available in Spanish and English. Voluntary use of these guidelines by private developers and government agencies is being widely promoted. They have also been well received by government, and are being incorporated into regulatory reviews and ordinances to promote sustainable tourism development.


Xcalak's National Park, created by presidential declaration in June 2000, became, with CRMP assistance, one of the first National Marine Parks initiated by a community rather than by the federal government. It is part of a series of marine protected areas in the state and the Meso-American Reef ecosystem. The national endorsement and implementation of a community's own vision of its future is a major step towards decentralized management. With the anticipated adoption of a stakeholder-driven park management plan, a park advisory committee will be formed consistent with Mexico's marine protected area guidelines. An updated Xcalak Community Tourism Strategy will bring stakeholders together to prioritize actions for participation in marine park implementation and tourism development. Better information for decisionmaking is being supported by the Costa Maya Geographic Information System Project.

The community was instrumental in creating the Xcalak National Marine Park, part of the Meso-American Reef ecosystem.




The Chetumal Bay region is a priority site for ICM in Mexico; however, the coastal management process is at the early stage of building capacity and raising awareness. A 2001 symposium on scientific information on the bay is leading to preparation of a diagnosis of socioeconomic and governance issues, which will feed into a bay-wide status and trends report. Increased outreach through UQROO and an emerging ICM network of NGOs is building university and community confidence and capacity to engage and partner with government and the private sector in a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder bay planning effort.






 Chetumal Bay in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is a priority site for coastal management in Mexico.

Within the Gulf of California, the increased and conflicting use of the land, shore and coastal waters is putting ever-increasing pressure on critical coastal resources. CRMP is working with Conservation International/Mexico (CIMEX) to demonstrate the integrated management of a bay ecosystem. Bahia Santa Maria located in Sinaloa state, is recognized internationally as a critical wetland for migratory waterfowl. The Bahia Santa Maria initiative addresses key issues of freshwater inflow, bay circulation, fisheries, tourism and mariculture development.

The Bahia Santa Maria management process is promoting the adoption of a single resource management plan shared by the two abutting municipalities, and creation of a trust fund for bay conservation and development supervised by a formally established Committee for Conservation and Development. Early implementation actions are focusing on projects that combine capacity building, community improvement and economic return in coastal villages, including actions directed at the management of village solid waste, and oyster culture and shrimp processing waste.

Critical to the sustainable management of Bahia Santa Maria will be the active involvement of the bay's fishing, mariculture, tourism and agriculture sectors. Working with shrimp farm cooperatives and industry groups, good practice codes of conduct and operational guidelines for the Sinaloa shrimp industry are being promoted. The state of Sinaloa is also moving ahead with preparation of an environmental master plan for the entire coast, which provides an opportunity to incorporate key strategies within a larger context.





 A gender equity and environmental workshop implemented by local partners in the state of Sinaloa attracted women from a wide range of professions, including community leaders from the villages surrounding Bahia Santa Maria.


In 2001, the Government of Mexico announced a project to create a network of 24 tourism-oriented marinas, an Escalera Nautica (Nautical Stairway), along the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California coasts. This action has galvanized regional attention and concern on conservation and development priorities, and the need for a regional approach to decisionmaking on issues of gulf-wide concern. Linked to this, an overall strategy will be developed by CRMP in 2002 to advance the use of best practices for coastal marina tourism in target areas.














Back to Top