Save the Micro Atolls of Cozumel!

As you read this, an utterly unique ecosystem stands threatened by an enormous development on the eastern side of the island of Cozumel, Mexico.

The micro atolls are a gorgeous and vibrant reef, comprised entirely of calcareous green algae.  They occur only rarely in the world, and nowhere else in the western Caribbean.

A proposal is already making its way through local government to make these reefs a marine reserve for posterity.  Sign this petition to hold President Calderon to his promise of preserving the natural resources of Mexico, and to support Cozumel residents in their effort to stop the senseless development known as Punta Arrecifes.

Dear President Calderon:

At the recent summit for the Adventure Travel Tourism Association in Chiapas, audiences present and throughout the world were captured by your words of wisdom in sustaining both the culture and the environment in Mexico. 

 Mexico is rich in both its land and its people.  The forests of Chiapas, the richness of the Mayan culture and the hospitality of San Cristobal de Las Casas are all credits to your nation.  Recently, a small team of photographers, scientists and writers were in Cozumel to conduct a visual assessment of the island as to the many issues of growth and development as part of a program by International League of Conservation Photographers.  It was made abundantly clear by both visitors and locals throughout the assessment that Cozumel is a favorite vacation destination.

 There is much to be admired about the residents of Cozumel.  The ILCP team witnessed the Cozumel Reefs National Park researchers carefully monitor the reef health.  They witnessed individuals assigned to protect the turtle habitats and teach the younger generation about the importance of saving an endangered species.  Unfortunately, they also witnessed the onslaught of development and the impact it can have on a tiny, sensitive island.  One particular area that concerned them is the northern lagoons and northeast corner of the island.  It is a jewel that is home to many endemic species of terrestrial flora and fauna.  Just a short distance from the beaches are delicate micro atolls.  These micro atolls represent a micro ecosystem that occurs only rarely worldwide, and nowhere else in the Western Caribbean.  Such limited and contrasting systems usually occur within very narrow survival parameters.  Even minute changes can bring about irreversible damage.

The team became aware of a particular development named Punta Arrecifes.  The approval process and exact scale of the project is and has been somewhat of a guessing game.  What little in documentation is available to the public raises more questions than answers.  What has been discussed as recently as September is that the plan incorporates a marina, golf course, private air strip and 600 hotel rooms.  The project claims to add employment opportunities.  And while this may be true, it’s difficult to understand the impact to the economy when so many of the existing resorts and hotels are having difficulty filling rooms.  At what expense would this development cost to the environment and uniqueness of this island to those who visit it for just that reason?  This area is all that is left of Cozumel to be considered a true wilderness.  More and more world travelers are seeking these pristine environments and are willing to pay a premium to visit them as such.  Any development could potentially take away this opportunity for future generations in Cozumel.


The ILCP team spoke with many Cozumel residents who are concerned that this magical area could lose its unspoiled wilderness character.  Other visitors who have had the extreme pleasure of experiencing this pristine area are also concerned that it may no longer exist.  The people who’ve had the opportunity to visit this part of the island all share a commitment to preserve it as it is: wild.


We understand one of the additional plans by the company proposing the development, is offering a carbon offset in the form of a wind farm.  Although this sounds quite admirable, placement of just a few big wind mills in the nesting and migratory bird areas could cause these species to seek other places in their delicate natural cycles.   At this time, no studies have investigated the potential impact Punta Arrecifes would have to these bird populations.

President Calderon, we are acutely aware of the right any country and its people have to development and economic growth. We all want our people healthy, happy and prosperous. However, it is also our responsibility to be good stewards of our lands. Leaving pristine natural habitats for our children is an honorable responsibility which pays social, economic, health and political dividends in the end.  We are asking that, as you stated in your speech, the government needs to make a commitment to sustainability and conservation along with economic growth. Make your last year in office and legacy to protect the beauty that Mexico has to offer to future tourists. Cozumel’s eastern and northern wilderness should be protected for all future generations and as an asset to the island’s tourism potential.

With respect,Michele Westmorland (International League of Conservation Photographers) and Myfanwy Rowlands (Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society), along with the undersigned concerned individuals.

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