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Protecting Mexico's island paradise

Christian Roman
March 20, 2018

The popularity of the Mexican island of Cozumel as a cruise destination is great for the economy — but not necessarily for nature. The country is now trying to protect its blue waters and fragile coral reefs.

Cruise ships in Cozumel, Caribbean Sea
Image: A. Warnstedt

Paradise Lost? Tourism in Cozumel

Project goal: Encouraging those on the Mexican island of Cozumel to recognize the benefits of protected areas for people and the economy.
Project implementation: The project team will identify five pilot protected areas, where they will investigate the value of ecosystem services, as well as the importance of these areas to farming, forestry, fishing and tourism. Conclusions will be shared with policy-makers and islanders to help boost environmental protection. 
Project size: Protected areas across Mexico, including Cozumel's coral reef marine park.
Project financing: €5 million ($6.3 million) from the German Environment Ministry (BMUB) within the framework of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
Project partners: Mexican National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP).
Timeframe: July 2013 to March 2018

Cozumel is the number-one cruise destination in Mexico. Each year, around 5 million tourists descend upon the island — which has a population of only around 100,000 people. Tourism is crucial to the island's economy; yet it also leaves its mark.

To help mitigate this impact, local nature conservation authorities and German development agency GIZ are highlighting the economic and cultural value of protected areas on the island in the Caribbean Sea. The aim is to protect Cozumel's natural environment and make the tourism industry more sustainable.

A film by Christian Roman