Sea Turtle Swims Near Puerto Morelos Reef, Mexico

Sea Turtle Swims Near Puerto Morelos Reef, photo via Creative Commons

Puerto Morelos Reef Threatened By Chinese Development


Jean-Michel Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society released a statement to the media last Thursday about a new Chinese development that will endanger the vibrant ecosystem of the Puerto Morelos reef, located about 22 miles south of Cancun in eastern Mexico.


Cousteau reports that the  Chinese Dragon Mart Cancun mega-project would include more than 3,000 storefronts and be a retail hub for selling Chinese products. “In addition to the center itself,” Cousteau’s press release said, “722 houses for an estimated 2,500 Chinese families would need to be built as well. The center is to be built on 557 hectares, 418 of which would be on a nature reserve.”


It’s not like such profit-driven development is anything new: Marine Reserves from Australia‘s Great Barrier Reef and  Baja California to the Galapagos Islands have fought to protect their species from endangerment or extinction due to changing ocean patterns, ecological differences, overfishing, and irresponsible tourism practices for years.


But the quaint seaside village of Puerto Morelos (which is located in Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula) largely depends on ecotourism for its revenue, attracting divers to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that lies just offshore.


The Chinese Dragon Mart Development Threatening the Puerto Morelos Reef System

The Chinese Dragon Mart Development Threatening the Puerto Morelos Reef System, photo by Ocean Futures Society


The Puerto Morelos reef is part of an ecosystem that stretches from the Yucatan Peninsula south into the Caribbean. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are over 500 species of fish, five species of turtles and 60 forms of hard coral who depend on the reef system for survival. Additionally, the reef attracts schools of whale sharks and manatees. Climate change, overfishing, and unchecked coastal development will only further damage Mexico‘s fragile marine ecosystem, as coral bleaching has already proven to be a problem there.


Cousteau reports that much of the jungle and mangrove forests near the Puerto Morelos reef have been razed without permission from Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. His press release poignantly notes that the number of daily shipments needed to accommodate the new development would require the dredging of a seabed in close proximity to the protected Marine Reserve in order to clear space for cargo ships.


Local communities in Puerto Morelos have already begun making efforts in delay the plans and establish a more sustainable approach to development for the Chinese Dragon Mart. Organizations such as The Summit Foundation are seeking collaboration to help maintain the world’s second-largest barrier reef. Please connect with them and the Ocean Futures Society to make sure your voice is heard, too!



•  The Wildlife Conservation Society has successfully released 19 baby Siamese crocodiles into their native habitats in Laos, via

•  President Obama announced that 11 million acres in the Western Arctic will be protected from drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve. The Sierra Club is sending him thanks, and you can, too!

•  Some careful studying has turned up a lost “microcontinent” off the coast of Africa. Let the Atlantis and Lemuria theories begin!    –Jillian Thaw


If you enjoyed our story about the Puerto Morelos Reef, you might also like:

INTERVIEW: Jean-Michel Cousteau on Marine Conservation

INTERVIEW: Marine Conservationist/Artist Guy Harvey

ECO NEWS: New York Aquarium Needs Help After Sandy’s Devastation

VIDEO: Snorkeling With Sea Turtles in the Riviera Maya


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