Arrecife Alacranes or Scorpion Reef is the largest reef in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. It contains five vegetated islands: Isla Desertora, Isla Pérez, Isla Pájaros, Isla Chica, and Isla Desterrada. The reef was declared a National Park, and a “Reserve of the Biosphere” by the United Nations in 1994. Credit: CONANP
of the Coastal Belt are protected areas
Area protected inside the Coastal Belt
The Flower Garden Banks were discovered by snapper and grouper fishermen in the early 1900’s and named after the brightly colored sponges, plants, and other marine life living in the banks. In 1992, they were designated as a National Marine Sanctuary under the National Marine Sanctuary Act. Credit: NOAA
Cuba, Mexico and the United States have recognized the special value of certain areas because of their high biodiversity; productivity, distinctive nature and ecological or biological value. In many cases they have created marine protected areas (MPAs) to conserve those values. MPAs encompass a broad array of protection from limiting activities to excluding access, the latter of which has created considerable controversy. This is unfortunate as resource managers need as many tools as possible to accomplish what all wish to see, a healthy and sustainable Gulf of Mexico. Many examples exist where stakeholders of disparate interests have come together, like the Flower Garden and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries, to conserve these areas for future generations. These are hopeful models for future conservation efforts.