Case Study: Banco Chinchorro, Mexico

The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve is located on the southeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Its 346,187 acres encompass a geographically unique reef formation home to diverse ecosystems and several marine and terrestrial species of ecological and commercial importance.

Banco Chinchorro is the richest coral reef site in Mexico, with 95 reported coral species, some of which are protected. With its great biodiversity and habitat value, the presence of endemic and threatened species, and relative isolation, Banco Chinchorro is a prime site for conservation and sustainable use.

Such organizations as the National Biodiversity Commission, World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy consider Banco Chinchorro an area of high priority. On July 19, 1996, the reserve was declared a natural protected area, and a management plan was developed in 2000. The reserve’s main objectives are to ensure the continuity of ecological processes and balance the conservation and use of natural resources through participatory management, scientific research, and environmental education.

The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve is a prime example of comanagement. The reserve’s management plan was developed with the cooperation of fishers and government authorities (such as the Navy Ministry, the Transportation and Communications Ministry, and the Environment Ministry). Licensed fishers support the reserve by providing US$0.20 for each kilogram of conch and lobster they catch.

Enforcement and surveillance are supported by the World Wildlife Fund, and much of the rest of the reserve is supported by Mexican government funds. The main enforcement objectives are to reduce illegal fishing and to control tourist activities—cruise ships bring 3,000 people per day to the nearby town of Majahual. The result of the comanagement activities has been the elimination of some forms of destructive fishing in the area and the preservation of much of Banco Chinchorro’s biodiversity.