The coral reefs of the Mexican Pacific are relatively unknown, but hold great ecological and economic importance for the region. From Oaxaca to the Baja California peninsula, these reefs attract a great number of tourists and provide critical habitat for many commercially important species.
This spring, WILDCOAST’s Coral Conservation Team came together to conduct baseline studies of the coral reefs off the Jalisco coast in collaboration with researchers from the University of Guadalajara. The team also carried out environmental education activities and met with recreation outfitters in Punta Pérula and Bahía de Chamela to establish a plan for creating sustainable tourism practices.
The coral reefs of the Marieta Islands National Park in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, have suffered from poor tourism practices, so much so that about a year ago the protected area had to close its doors to tourists and undergo intensive restoration efforts. Dr. Amílcar Cupúl and Dr. Paola Rodríguez from the University of Guadalajara, in coordination with the Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), successfully restored the corals and now offer recommendations on sustainable tourism practices to ensure that the coral reefs of the Marieta Islands continue to recover.
Also as part of the effort, WILDCOAST Coral Conservation Team members Gabriela Ang and Rebeca Meléndez visited the Ameyali School in Puerto Vallarta to teach 200 students about the importance of coral reef conservation in Jalisco. The students were very excited to learn about how they can protect natural resources in their own community and look forward to spreading awareness about coral conservation in their community.
In another part of Jalisco, the coral reefs of Chamela Bay Islands Sanctuary sustain the fish populations on which the communities of Punta Pérula and Chamela rely, as well as support the tourist activities that provide supplemental income to residents. Underneath a tree in the town square in Punta Pérula around 15 tourism guides and outfitters expressed their concerns about the impacts tourism was having on their coral reefs, including pollution and overfishing, during a meeting with WILDCOAST’s Coral Conservation Team. Fortunately, there is a great willingness to move towards sustainable practices and WILDCOAST will be working with these guides and outfitters, as well as community members, to provide the training and tools necessary to move to sustainable practices.
On another positive note, monitoring of the reefs of Chamela Bay found several healthy patches of coral. The team found good coral cover and a diversity of invertebrates such as sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers, although the average size of the organisms was small due to overharvesting.
Thanks to the support of the University of Guadalajara and the professionalism of Gabriela and Rebeca of WILDCOAST, the future is looking up for the coral reefs of the Mexican Pacific and WILDCOAST looks forward to expanding the coral reef conservation project to different communities along the coast. If you would like to help WILDCOAST’s efforts to save the corals of the Mexican Pacific donate today!