Xcalak national Park - based on a meeting held May 13, 2013
Compiled by Karen Raffa
CONANP Park Staff:
Maricarmen: Director of the Xcalak Reef National Park and the Chinchorro Banks Biosphere Reserve firstname.lastname@example.org
Jorge Gomez Poot: Sub-Director of the Xcalak National Park jgomez@conanp,gob.mx or email@example.com.
Carito Ruiz Lozano: Chief of Enforcement: Carin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ericka: Office contact and National Park Xcalak station operation coordinator. email@example.com
Leonardo: Chief of Public use, Tourist Projects (starting July 15th).
Felipe: Chief of Fishing Projects
2 Captains: Jorge Marcelo and Marcelo
Oscar: President of Advisory Committee
Residents present at the meeting:
Marty and Vickie Rosenzweig, Caroline Wexler, Anne Lansing, John Bohlman, Karen Raffa and Greg Krenik, Jules and 3 XTC employees, Javier Salas-XTC is the sub-committee member representing Hotel owners and our interpreter for the evening.
Definitions and Roles
The CONANP staff act as Park Rangers and are in the Park to supervise the rules and stop illegal activity such as fishing, and netting in the lagoons. CONANP explained their role as Caretakers of the Parque, they do NOT make the rules, they are here to enforce them.
The Parque was made a National Protected Park on Nov 27th of 2000, as per the request of the residents of Xcalak in 1996. They were worried that what happened in Mahahual could happen in our town and they took steps to have it protected by the Mexican Government ’t. It took 4 years (1996-2000) to get a Presidential decree to protect our park (La Poza makes it so Unique) and to control the growth (something that Mahahual did not do).
PROFEPA is the Enforcement Agency for the Protection of the Environment. Each State in Mexico has their own Inspectors. Our one inspector is out of Chetumal. PROFEPA investigates violations of the rules and regulations of the park (land or water) and will issue fines. Anything changed by humans without a permit (example: clearing land, building houses or piers, cutting trenches or cutting endangered chit palms or mangroves) is under their jurisdiction and any infractions will result in a fine. Fishing and tourism are under their jurisdiction. (I don’t think they are the actual prosecutors as that goes before a judge, but these are all Federal Crimes)
POET is a document, standing for “Territorial and Ecological Zoning Program”. They designate certain areas as high density, low density, residential vs. hotel zones.
The homes and roads that are within the Park are not under jurisdiction of the Park but are under the jurisdiction of PROFEPA Federal Prosecutor for the Protection of the Environment and POET. Also, the homes and the roads are influencing zones for the Park.
CONAPESCA is the federal agency that controls and regulates the fishing in the Park. There are two officials: Secretariat and Administrator of Environment and two inspectors. They develop a management plan for specific areas. There is a local advisory committee that meets every six months to discuss the conservation and environmental education actions and results in the Park and in the town of Xcalak. In this committee there are representatives of NGO’s, federal government such as SEMAR (Marines Secretary) Harbor Master of Xcalak, CONANP, etc .
The Xcalak Park Rangers supervise the rules of CONAPESCA and try to stop illegal activity but they do not always have input as to what the rules are within the park. They meet with the agency to discuss some of the rules. For example: quotas on lobsters, grouper and clamming.
Rules and regulations:
There are specific zones for fishing and specific zones for tourist activities and other zones that prohibit fishing within the Park, these zones are called “restricted use zone”. There is a map (see below) that shows these restricted zones. The zone just north of Habna which is just north of the old lighthouse and Mio Maya to Xahuachol including Rio Huache is a no fishing zone of any kind (restricted use zone).
The zone near Belize and Bacalar Chico is also a no fishing zone and also south of Portillas. The Park is trying to bring back Grouper.
Conch (officially named Queen Conch) has a Moratorium –it is prohibited to harvest or eat for 5 years…NO fishing for Conch. This is a Federal law everywhere in Mexico and is punishable by Federal court.
There is public fishing around Xcalak in the blue zone of the map.
If you are a tourist and want to fish you must get a fishing permit or license from SAGARPA (Agriculture, Livestock, rural development, fishing and feeding Secretary) if you want to fish from a boat.
You must release your catch if you are a fly-fishing fisherman.
To keep fish you must go outside the reef where the depth is 100 meters.
Fishing with a line and a hook is allowed for everyone as long as people do it in the zones for fishing and from the beach. You don’t need a permit for this activity.
Residents may fish from shore or boat with a line and a hook and may keep their catch for their own consumption but cannot sell that fish. Only Co-op members can sell fish.
Lobster: The season for lobster is July 1 –Feb 28. Lobster may only be caught with a lasso and caught live (no spear guns) and only by local Co-op members. The fishing co-op is made up of about 30 members and 20 apprentices and they are the only ones who may take out lobster.
The Co-op has a concession and lobster is only supposed to be sold out of the fishing Co-op. Technically you cannot buy lobster from these fisherman… unless they take it to the Co-op headquarters and sell it there. The headquarters is the newly painted blue and white building near the plaza in the center of town. There is a minimum size lobster that is allowable to catch which is 13.5 centimeters of tail. The Small lobsters and the females with eggs that are being taken are affecting the lobster population.
You must get a receipt from the Co-op when you purchase lobster.
The Co-op in Xcalak is not functioning very well. It has been difficult in the past to buy lobster or fish from them directly. The Park said that they will be working with the Co-op to try and facilitate a way to sell fish and lobster to the residents of Xcalak. Right now many of the lobsters and fish are taken out of town to big buyers and the residents don’t have a chance to be able to buy fish or lobster from the Co-op. Maricarmen said that they were going to try to set up a way to put in an order to the co-op so that residents could be assured of getting fish and lobster. Many Co-op members who fish or catch lobster in Chinchorro take their catch to the Co-op in Mahahual and from there it is sent out to the big buyers. It is possible to go to the Mahahual Co-op and buy fish and lobster there, but it would be much better if the Co-op here became more organized so that all of us have the ability to buy lobster and fish legally.
All of the fishing boats who are Co-op members have an orange stripe on the side of their boat.
If they come to your dock to sell fish, technically you cannot buy from them directly, you must buy from the Co-op headquarters and remember to get a receipt.
Life Jackets are REQUIRED on all boats and kayaks. It is strongly suggested to wear the life jacket but it is legally required to have one ON the boat. This is not only for your own safety but for rescue operations as well and it is one of the rules of the tourist activities in the Park.
No net fishing inside the reef or in the lagoons. Circular hand nets for bait are allowed. In the Management program in section 4 “Fishing commercial activities dispositions” rule No. 58 - strictly prohibits the use of nets in lagoons and lagoons entrances, with the exception of circular hand nets “atarrayas” for catching bait.
No Spear guns for fishing or lobster fishing is allowed. Spear fishing is ONLY allowed to hunt Lion Fish with a Hawaiian sling which is longer than a regular spear.
A maximum of 200 people are allowed to be on the water at any one time in Xcalak or no more than 40 boats-which ever comes first…we are far from that number in the present tourist season.
Specific Problems of Patrolling the Park
Educating the Marines and Police on the rules on the Park. Both the Marines and “local” Police are transferred in and out of Xcalak on a monthly basis so each month the Park has to inform the Police and Marines on the rules and regulations. The Marines are now accompanying the Park Rangers on raids to confiscate nets, catch people fishing or taking conch or lobster illegally. Xcalak is the only place where Federal/State/Local/Army/Navy all meet every 2 months to address Environmental impacts here. There is currently 1 person in Jail for a FEDERAL crime (which is what any Park crime is) and they have confiscated 30 boats and lots of equipment.
They will be checking tourists for bracelets. Everyone, except residents needs a bracelet. Visiting family & friends need a bracelet. Bracelets can be bought for $54mxn at XTC individually or hotel owners can order multiples through XTC. You can also purchase a full year pass from the Park which admits you in all other national parks without any other fees. This costs about 283 pesos and is a good way for residents to support the Park. All proceeds from bracelets and yearly passes go back to the specific Park.
The reason why CONANP cannot ‘sell’ the bracelets, which they were doing for our convenience, is because they cannot accept the liability to take that money to Chetumal and then take it to the bank-which all along- each business was supposed to do it on their own. So Javier @ XTC has taken the liability and given us the convenience, he has bracelets for sale at the XTC Dive Center.
The Federal Government ’t of Mexico has NO Treasury Department-they use the banks to have citizens make ALL payments.
The main areas of poaching that the Park is working on: