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Riviera Maya is Home to Mexico’s Largest Protected Area

Last update 14 January, 2017
Riviera Maya is Home to Mexico’s Largest Protected Area
The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve spans an area almost half the length of the great Mesoamerican Reef.

Mexico has confirmed its commitment to finding real solutions that will protect its vast biodiversity for future generations.


The Mexican government recently announced that it will create a new biosphere reserve encompassing virtually the entire coast of the state of Quintana Roo, which is home to the Riviera Maya, including Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos and more.  The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve aims to be the nation’s largest natural protected area and will span more than 5.7 million hectares (more than 14 million acres). President Enrique Peña Nieto also announced two new reserves on Mexico’s Pacific side, namely the Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve and the deep-sea Pacific Biosphere Reserve.

“The Mexican Caribbean is characterized by diverse habitats and ecosystems,” said the Mexican government in a statement. “On land there are different kinds of tropical rainforests. Closer to the coast there are sand dunes, lagoons, floodplains and mangroves. At sea, seagrass meadows and coral reef are predominant.”

The protected areas were all announced by Peña Nieto at the opening of the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) a global biodiversity summit, which was held in Cancun in December. According to a press release, ministers and delegates from more than 190 countries attended the conference.

The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve includes an area that is almost half the length of the entire Mesoamerican Reef, which also happens to be the world’s second largest barrier reef. In total, the reserve spans 1,006 kilometers (625 miles) and consists of six core zones that encompass 1.9 million hectares, while the remaining 3.8 hectares will act as a buffer zone, along with more than 28,500 hectares protected on land. The newly designated reserve is good news for anyone who enjoys the Tulum lifestyle, is living in Playa del Carmen or who owns real estate in this part of Mexico.

“Close to 1,900 species of flora and fauna, 500 species of fish and 86 species of coral inhabit the area of the biosphere,” wrote The Yucatan Times.

The new Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve covers 1.16 million hectares off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. This multi-stakeholder, 11-year consultation and negotiation process represents the government’s ongoing efforts to protect Mexico’s Pacific islands, as well as the surrounding waters, which are home to a wide variety of mammals and seabirds, as well as essential fishing grounds that local populations still depend on for survival.

The newly created deep-sea Pacific Biosphere Reserve spans 57.78 million hectares off the coast of Mexico’s Pacific coast and is the nation’s largest marine protected area. The multi-use deep-sea reserve includes the water column that is below 800 meters and fragile seabed ecosystems. Mining and fishing will only be permitted without the use of trawling gear and outside of the strictly protected core zones, in keeping with UN General Assembly resolutions.

“These new marine protected areas bring Mexico’s total to 22.05 percent of its entire coastal and marine area,” wrote Environmental News Service in a press release. 

Upon the conclusion of December’s COP13 meeting, Mexico confirmed its continued commitment to finding real solutions that will protect its biodiversity for future generations. As one of the best countries for expats and one of the best places to retire abroad, Mexico values its natural abundance, offering a variety of ecotourism excursions and cultural experiences nationwide.

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