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- Mexico just created a 150,000-square-kilometer (57,000-square-mile) marine reserve surrounding the Revillagigedo islands off its west coast. What is a marine reserve? Use our reference resource for some help. Better yet, watch the video above and let Mel the fish tell you about it.
- A marine reserve is a type of marine protected area (MPA) in which removing or destroying natural or cultural resources is prohibited. Like many marine reserves, the Revillagigedo reserve is a “no-take MPA,” meaning no extractive activities will be allowed in the reserve. Extractive activities include fishing, mining, onshore hunting, coral or shellfish collection, and drilling.
- What makes the Revillagigedo islands such a crucial place to create a marine reserve?
- Nicknamed the “Galapagos of North America” or the “Galapagos of Mexico”, the islands are rich in biodiversity. The warm Pacific waters are home to hundreds of species of sharks, rays, tuna, and other fish; humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins; and five species of sea turtles. The islands themselves are home to endemic species of birds, lizards, and snakes.
- Unlike the Galapagos, the Revillagigedos are largely uninhabited. (The Mexican navy maintains small stations on two of the islands.)
- The Revillagigedo islands are an important migratory stopover for marine mammals, reptiles, and birds. For example, the islands provide a winter home for humpback whales (learn more about them here); nesting sites for endangered green sea turtles (learn more about their migration here); and the only place where the critically endangered Townsend’s shearwater breeds.
- The isolation and biodiversity of the Revillagigedo islands have made them one of the most popular (and lucrative) dive spots in the world.
- The unique habitat of the Revillagigedo islands are already a national biosphere reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn more about that here.
- What activities threaten pristine conditions in the Revillagigedo islands?
- commercial fishing. According to the Guardian, the Revillagigedos are a “breeding ground for commercially fished species such as tuna and sierra. However, the various fish populations had suffered, unable to reproduce fast enough for the rate at which they were fished.”
- sport fishing. According to our Pristine Seas expedition to the Revillagigedos, sport fishing targets large ocean predators, such as tuna, wahoo, and grouper.
- development. The tourism industry would thrive on the Revillagigedos—hotels, restaurants, recreational activities.
- invasive species. Although largely eradicated, the presence of introduced species such as sheep, pigs, and mice have left a long-lasting impact on the landscape.
- How does the new marine reserve protect the Reillagigedo islands? Read through the National Geographic article for some help.
- The reserve is a no-take MPA, meaning all forms of fishing and extractive activities are prohibited.
- Construction of hotel facilities will not be permitted on any of the islands.
- Tourism will be limited to a set number of dive boats, and no tourists will be allowed onshore without a permit.
- The area will be strictly policed by the Mexican navy.
- According to the Guardian, creating the marine reserve “wasn’t an easy decision because [it] had significant opposition from the commercial fishing industry.” However, our explorer Enric Sala says the fishing and tourism industries might actually welcome the marine reserve. Why? Read through the National Geographic article for some help.
- “Mexico’s fishermen should see their catches in waters outside the reserve increase, says Sala, due to spill-over of growing fish populations in the protected waters. That’s exactly what happened around the Galápagos after fishing was restricted in 1998, turning former adversaries of the reserve into supporters.”
- “The proposed reserve should also increase the amount of dive tourism to the area, which is already a $15 million business. Boats often leave out of the popular resort destination Cabo San Lucas, a few hundred miles away. Each living manta ray is worth 57 times more to Mexico’s economy through increased tourism than the money received by selling its body parts to Asia, Sala’s team calculated.”
Nat Geo: Revillagigedo Islands
UNESCO: Archipiélago de Revillagigedo
Nat Geo: What is a no-take zone?
Nat Geo: What is a marine reserve? (video)