Photo: SEMARNAT, Fish
Located at the southeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve encompasses more than 144,000 hectares of coral reefs, mangroves, beds of sea grass beds and sand beache. Banco Chinchorro is the largest platform type reef complex system in Mexico and because of its isolated position, it represents well-preserved natural ecosystems.
Corals form a circular strip made up of coral islets, which constitute the morphological structure of Banco Chinchorro. Due to this topography and the irregular submarine topography and orientation, a great diversity of habitats co-exist. Some 95 coral species have been inventoried.
Seagrass beds are abundant in the Cayo Norte zone and in the interior lagoon of Cayo Centro, serving as reproduction and breeding refuges of way ecologically and economically important species. In this latter category, the two main species of importance are found: the Caribbean lobster (Panulirus argus) and the conch (Strombus gigas).
There are three coral systems: Coyo Norte, Cayo Centro and Cayo Lobos, which form the three core areas. The transition area encompasses the fishing village gathering the 90 inhabitants of the Biosphere Reserve along the mainland coast.
NOAA: Banco Chinchorro is a Federal Reserve,managed by CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas). There are no permanent human settlements within the Reserve, except for a Mexican Navy post station; the Reserves Guard Base; and 15 huts and 15 cabins used by fishermen as temporary residence during lobster season (July through February). Fisheries, mainly queen conch, lobster and scale fish, are appointed to three fishermen cooperatives (92 persons), which are based in the communities of Xcalak, Mahahual and Chetumal City. There is public access to the Reserve incipient and occasional, mainly for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Major threats to RBBCH include:
Tourism development – Costa Maya is being opened up as an International tourism destination – which considers RBBCH as one of the major attractions of the area. A cruise ship pier receives 3000 tourists per day on the coastal village of Mahahual.
Overfishing – illegal fishing is a serious problem within RBBCH, contributing to deplete the resource base for queen conch and lobster.
Contamination – it is beginning a sanitation (letrinization) system for the disposal of human feces derived from fishermen.
Exotic Species – established populations of cats and rodents exist in Cayo Centro and rodents in Cayo Norte, undoubtedly affecting bird and reptile species.