ELKHORN CORAL | ©Scott H. Sexton. iNaturalist


Coastal areas in the Peninsula have beaches, dunes, lagoons, mangroves, sea grasses, turquoise color seas and coral reefs. They are home to thousands of marine species, around 400 fish species, among them, the largest fish in the world, the whale shark. Here, all six marine turtle species that visit Mexico, feed and reproduce. Also, both species of Mexican crocodiles share the region: the River crocodile and the Swamp crocodile.

©John C., iNaturalist

©Claudia Madrazo

©Marc Goncher. iNaturalist

Robalo blanco
©plawrynpx. iNaturalist

The colonies of the spectacular American flamingo nest in the north of the Peninsula and around 70 species of shorebirds, plovers, sandpipers, oystercatchers, and seagulls use the Peninsula coast as a stopover in their migrations.

In the Peninsula eastern coast the Mesoamerican reef has an extension of  one thousand kilometers, the second largest coral barrier in the world. These colorful reefs are composed of around 50 species of hard corals and 25 of soft corals (Sea fans and gorgonias). Furthermore, the largest proportion of mangrove ecosystems in Mexico 60% (544,000 ha) is found in the Yucatan peninsula (CONABIO 2023).

The extended Peninsula mangroves confer critical protection against hurricanes, furthermore, they are breeding sites for a great diversity of marine birds and commercial fish. The region is also home of the peaceful Caribbean manatee.

Since ancient times, fishing has been a part of the Maya culture, using up to 32 species, among sharks catfish, Sea bass, Black drums, Mojarras, Red drums and Sawfish caught in cenotes, wetlands, and estuaries. Some species like rays, puffers and sharks also had a ritual role (Jiménez Cano 2017).


Since the creation of the tourist town of Cancun in 1970 the population in the region has grown exponentially with impacts all over the coast of Quintana Roo. Tourism rapidly became the main economic activity of the State, however, its uncontrolled growth has resulted in the loss, deterioration. and pollution of the coastal ecosystems and loss of their natural richness

Global warming has caused coral bleaching, sea water intrusion due to higher sea levels and meteorological phenomena are increasingly unpredictable. Other recent ecological problems are the colonization by the Asiatic Lion fish around the beginning of 2000, the massive arrivals of Sargassum in 2011 in spring and summer, and in 2018, the emergence of the white reef syndrome.

CANCÚN 1970/2024

The main fisheries in the region have been Red Grouper, Red octopus, Atlantic rock octopus and the Caribbean lobster. Along the coast of Quintana Roo there were traditional breeding aggregations sites of around 37 fish species, mainly Coneys, Groupers and Bass groper (Serranidae) and Snappers (Lutjanidae). During the past 50 years, these massive and highly vulnerable concentrations, have been overexploited and some of the sites have dissappeared.

The Nassau grouper, a species that can reach one meter in length, and that had congregations on the thousands of individuals, today is considered a Critically Endangered Species. This species that laid eggs during Full Moon from December to February is now very scarce. There are several possible reasons for this, overfishing, destruction of sites by infrasrtucture (docks), consumer demand, among others.

Nassau grouper
©Scott Sexton. iNaturalist


To help the return of this and other fish species and the Caribbean fisheries health, the initiative Alianza Kanan Kay was created.



Since 2011, Claudia y Roberto Hernandez Foundation participates and promotes the Kanan Kay Alliance(AKK), the objective of this intersectorial collaborative initiative is responsible fisheries management. The Alliance has promoted 17 Fisheries Refuge Zones (over 18,000 ha) in the Mexican Caribbean. The members of the Alliance are fisheries cooperatives, civil society organizations, government, academia, independent consultants and several Mexican and foreign foundations.

Workshop on community surveillance of Banco Chinchorro
Kanan Kay Alliance

Some species of commercial importance under Fisheries Improvement Projects are the Blue crab, Caribbean crabCaribbean lobster, the Red octopus, the Red grouper and the Black grouper.

Mares de Yucatán
©Claudia Madrazo


Claudia y Roberto Hernandez Foundation is part of the Advisory Board of this initiative since 2019. The objective of the iniciative is to promote the heatlh of coastal communities and coastal and marine ecosystems. The main action lines are Public Policies, , dialogue with the three government levels on best practices for coastal and marine environments; Regional approach, , to act as a catalyst between sectors and to promote State policies for comprehensive coastal and marine management; and Social Base Construction, to encourage society to communicate the relevance of the oceans. At present, the initiative is based in the states of Yucatán and Baja California Sur. 


  • Aguilar-Perera, A. 2014. An obituary for a traditional aggregation site of Nassau Grouper in the Mexican Caribbean. Proceedings of the 66th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute. Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Comisión Nacional de Acuicultura y Pesca. 2019. Zonas de refugio pesquero. Gobierno de México.
  • Fulton, D.S., J. Caamal, E. Nalesso and W. Heyman. 2017. Groupers Spawning Aggregations in the Mexican Caribbean. dataMares. Interactive Resource.
  • Jiménez Cano, N.G. 2017. Ictioarqueología del mundo Maya: evaluando la pesca prehispánica (250-1450 d.C.) de las tierras bajas del norte. Tesis de Doctorado. Universidad de Madrid, España.
  • Ponce Aguilar. 2023. Alianza Kanan Kay por la pesca sustentable. La vaca independiente. Consultado el 25 de enero 2024