The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve just 80 miles south of Cancun is Mexico’s largest protected coastal wetland. This 1.6 million acre refuge is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. The gateway to this spectacular preserve is Pez Maya, a 64-acre postcard-perfect paradise purchased by The Nature Conservancy and its partner Amigos de Sian Ka’an (ASK) in December 2001.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, this two-mile curving coastline will remain natural forever, not only protecting the offshore beginnings of the Mesoamerican Reef but preserving a natural beauty that is quickly being overtaken by development spreading south from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen to Tulum.
Just 15 miles south of Tulum, Pez Maya's two miles of coastline comprise breeding grounds for least tern, osprey, American crocodile, manatee, and loggerhead and green sea turtles. Nourished by inland mangrove swamps, the coastal waters of Pez Maya harbor one of the world's most pristine coral formations and are renowned for their abundance of sport fish such as tarpon, bonefish, snook and permit fish.
In fact, Pez Maya is a former fly fishing resort, where visitors to the once-remote site where greeted at the private airstrip with trays of margaritas. The resort fell into disrepair and was taken over by a bank that eventually sold it for conservation. Small concrete structures now serve as campsites for teams of researchers studying the reef.
While ASK now holds title to the preserve according to intricate Mexican land ownership laws, the Conservancy must continue to fundraise annually to pay the property taxes.
Protecting a reserve
To address the growing threat of development outside the reserve, the Conservancy and ASK have engaged the private sector, working with local landowners to establish conservation easements and acquire critically threatened, privately owned lands.
In 2005, the Conservancy, ASK and the Mexican government’s National Protected Areas Commission completed a five-year conservation plan for Sian Ka’an and are working on activities identified in this plan. The Conservancy and ASK are also working with local communities in and around the preserve to promote sustainable resource use and best practices for land use and development.