Akumal Bay, Q.R. – Swimming with the turtles has been temporarily suspended in the Bay of Akumal by Profepa officials.
The decision to temporarily suspend the activity came after a combination of complaints and monitored environmental damage. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) were the force behind the decision, noting that the area has suffered severe damage to the ecological environment.
The temporary suspension has been met with positive and negative responses as some say the move has hurt local livelihood by taking away the ability to offer tours and that it’s the larger companies who are arriving with an unlimited number of tourists that are responsible for the ecological damage.
They say that the overcrowding in the bay is due to outside companies that do not have any set limits as to the amount of people they are permitted to bring in. Others, however, support Profepa’s decision to temporarily suspend the activity in the bay saying the operation was a “mess” because the “people who were arriving to swim with the turtles claiming to be cooperative were unregistered groups.”
From January 3 to 22 of this year, Profepa monitored tours in the Bay of Akumal where they verified 3,617 tourists swimming with turtles, a figure that is twice the allowed limit in the authorized area. A majority of these activities were also being allowed outside the designated area.
The Attorney General’s Office has continually received citizen complaints to solve the problem of overcrowding and environmental damage taking place in the bay due to companies not adhering to group limits and tourists not respecting the boundaries.
Permits for companies offering swimming with the turtles expired in December. These permits are issued on an annual basis by the Wildlife Directorate of Semarnat and are reportedly limited to 120 people per day entering the bay. There is no word yet on when or if these permits will be renewed, only that the limit of 120 people per day has not been respected.
In a public statement, Profepa says that those who fail to comply with the temporary suspension will be sanctioned in terms of the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA) as well as other applicable provisions.