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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 mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.


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


This project protects seagrass, which traps more CO2 than any other marine ecosystem, slowing global warming.

This project will ban fishing in a large area of mangroves, coral, and seagrass around Cayo Alcatraz, a small island off 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 are also many kinds 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 lobsters near the island, but poachers have overfished the area. That has forced 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. Working with our nonprofit partners, they will also ask the government to officially recognize the no-take restrictions.

The cooperative will use a Seacology grant to support tourism and sustainable fishing. They will build restrooms with composting toilets, for local people and tourists. Rainwater collection tanks will store water to 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 been 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 sustainable livelihoods projects, and Manta Mexico Caribe, which protects manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean.

Project Updates

June 2024

The dry toilets and solar panels have been installed, and the rainwater harvesting system is almost finished.

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February 2024

This project is nearly complete. The protected area is marked with buoys (with the Seacology logo) and lobster shelters (“casitas”) on the ocean floor are sheltering juvenile lobsters. The rainwater harvesting system, dry toilets, and solar energy systems have arrived on the island.

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June 2023

The lobster shelters (“casitas”) are now in place on the ocean floor and are already sheltering juvenile lobsters. The rainwater harvesting system, dry toilets, and solar energy systems were expected to arrive in January 2023, but shipment has been postponed to July.

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February 2023

Members of the fishers’ cooperative installed a buoying system to mark the limits of the protected area.

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June 2022

Members of the cooperative finished the buoying system and installed it to mark the limits of the protected area. (The buoys include logos of the principal project participants: Seacology, CONANP, Coral Hero, and Mar de las Antillas cooperative.) The first two lobster “casitas” have been placed on the ocean floor and should soon have juvenile lobsters as tenants.

An upsurge in Covid cases made it difficult to visit the cayo early in 2022, and strong seasonal winds delayed the infrastructure installations. Still, good progress has been made. The rainwater harvesting system is finished and should be installed soon. This is very important because the last hurricane season destroyed the fishermen’s houses, leaving them without a way to collect rainwater. The cultivation and solar energy systems will also be transported soon. The dry toilets are 80% finished.

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February 2022

Our project partners have confirmed the coordinates of the no-fishing area, and fishers’ cooperative members designed and built buoys to mark it. Coop members are building a prototype lobster shelter, with technical advice from an expert at Mexico’s National Fishing Institute. They also started building the shelter. As soon as it is done, they will install the rainwater harvesting system.

The dry toilets and urinals are 60% finished. The cultivation system and solar energy system are finished and ready for transport after the hurricane season. Our partners had hoped to finish in December, but Covid cases skyrocketed, and they had to postpone work at the site.

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June 2021

Our project partners have worked on the design of the rainwater harvesting systems and have settled on a composting toilet design. Pandemic restrictions on travel have kept progress slow.

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February 2021

The caribeñas (lobster houses) have been designed, and the fishers’ cooperative will buy them once the weather allows 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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