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Cayo Alcatraz


Conservation benefit: New 939-acre no-fishing area for five years  (then subject to renewal)

Community benefit: Lobster shelters to promote sustainable fishery; composting toilets

Date Approved: 06.2020


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

This project will prohibit fishing in a large area of mangroves and seagrass just off Cayo Alcatraz, a small island on the Yucatan Peninsula. Many species of local and migratory birds (ospreys, flamingos, and yellow warblers, just to name a few) are found in these wetlands. There is also a diverse array of sharks, rays, fish, and lobsters.

The idea for the no-fishing zone came from the Mar de las Antillas fishing and tourism cooperative. Its members dive to catch spiny lobster near Cayo Alcatraz. Poachers have overfished the area, forcing the cooperative members to go out into deeper water, where it is more dangerous to dive.

A no-take area will give lobsters a place to grow and reproduce before spreading beyond the protected area. The fishers also want to preserve the natural beauty of the area to attract tourists. They have already reduced their reliance on fishing by embracing ecotourism, highlighting the mangroves and wildlife.

The fishers will patrol the new no-take area and report any violations. They will also, working with our nonprofit partners, seek official recognition of the no-take restrictions.

The cooperative will use a Seacology grant to support both tourism and sustainable fishing. They will build restrooms with composting toilets and rainwater storage, for local people and tourists. The water will irrigate small vegetable gardens. In the protected area, they will install 10 to 15 lobster casitas. These are low shelters that keep small lobsters safe from predators, so that more can reach adulthood. These shelters have proved successful in other parts of Quintana Roo, and our project partners will work with experienced installers.

Our local partners are Coral Hero, which has worked with the cooperative on several projects exploring sustainable livelihoods, and Manta Mexico Caribe, which protects manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean.

Project Updates

February 2021

The caribeñas (lobster houses) have been designed, and the fishers’ cooperative will buy them once the weather is favorable for construction and transport. Our project partners have made several trips to the site, confirming the coordinates of the no-fishing area and filming the first part of a video.

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