The story so far
In 2016 Akumal's Ecological Center announced the creation of a marine refuge for protected species in Akumal Beach, with the declared intention of protecting three species of sea turtles, four species of corals, three species of mangroves and three species of seagrass.
After only one year from the announcement the situation has gone wild, and it looks like commercial interests are prevailing over the protection of this delicate area. Let's be honest: nobody wants to loose the golden business of the "swimming with turtles" tours, the rental of life jackets and all the related activities, even if this means that maybe, in the future, there won't be any turtles to swim with.
As Akumal Bay Info reports, after a suspension of the "swimming with turtles" activities at the beginning of 2017 and for only 51 days, SEMARNAT reissued permits to commercial operators. Tour operators are supposed to follow certain rules, but are often ignoring them.
These rules inludes:
- Snorkel activities can only be carried out between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
- No more than 6 people/group plus a guide.
- The minimum distance between groups is 10 meters.
Unverifyed guides get permission to offer snorkeling tours
A joint warning from the Tulum Hotel Association, Riviera Maya Hotel Association and the Hotel Association of Cancun and Puerto Morelos published in June 2017 warned that:
The General Directorate of Wildlife (Dirección General de Vida Silvestre), a unit of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), authorized various individuals and cooperatives to conduct guided swimming tours with turtles. The permits were granted without verifying or requiring that the service providers and their tour guides had proper instruction or training, such as swimming abilities and water rescue procedures. It was not verified that these individuals had the necessary infrastructure to properly and safely provide this service, nor was it confirmed if they had insurance coverage in case of accident and/or damage. Neither did they verify if these individuals have criminal records. These omissions have resulted in fatal accidents!
The Tulum Hotel Association encourages visitors, national and international, to verify that the service providers of their choice comply with the following minimum conditions to ensure their safety and promote the sustainable development of the Bay of Akumal:
- Tour guides accredited by Secretariat of Federal Tourism as “Tour guides for the interpretation of nature, specialized in swimming with turtles, under NOM-TUR-009-2002”.
- Liability and medical insurance in the event of an accident.
- Showers so that clients can rinse off before entering the water, since sunscreens and other chemicals have been proven to damage marine species.
- First aid equipment, and trained and certified personnel.
- Municipal Operating Licences
What to expect when you visit
Despite all these issues a visit to Akumal Bay can be the experience of a lifetime, read how on my post Akumal beach: hell on eart, paradise underwater