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State creates refuge area for whale shark near Cancun

Cancun, Q.R. — The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has created an official refuge area for the protection of the whale shark in waters just off the mainland of Cancun.

The official refuge area is located between Isla Mujeres, Puerto Juarez, Chiquilá and Isla Holbox in front of the municipalities of Lázaro Cárdenas, Benito Juárez and Isla Mujeres in the state of Quintana Roo.

In the documents for the Official Mexican Gazette, they said that the protection program will establish the conservation and management conditions in the refuge area under the terms of Article 69 of the General Wildlife Law.

The size of the refuge area is in excess of 633,000 hectares and exceeds the area that includes the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve by including a greater distance to the north of Holbox as well as an extension to the east and north of Isla Mujeres.

In the decree, signed by the secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, they say the marine area is a transition area between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, “in which a varied biodiversity is presented, product of the marine upwellings that converge and favor an increase in the production of phytoplankton and zooplankton.”

“In the northern part of the Mexican Caribbean we find between May and September environmental conditions that allow the aggregation of the most numerous whale shark on the planet,” it adds.

Although in this area non-extractive whale shark exploitation activities are carried out, “protection schemes are required to avoid or reduce the risk of anthropogenic interactions that may negatively affect the species.”

The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, through the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas, will enforce the protection program of the refuge area.