Monthly Archives January 2016

If a Tree Falls…

Manuary 29, 2016

Seeing recent activity and comments in social media as well as news articles, one cannot help but wonder if Akumal is in its own philosophical thought experiment much like “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”

Slightly adapted of course, the thought experiment would be something like, if rules are made and no legal authority is there to oversee or enforce them, do the rules need to be followed? Do the rules even exist?

It certainly seems that some believe the answer is no. A few examples to illustrate the point:

1. Ignoring the Port Closure by the Harbour Captain / Beach Flag Warning

In Akumal Bay there is a beach flag warning system, much like any other beach, it operates on a traffic light system—green is good, yellow is take caution, red is stop. The red flag is an advisement, used to indicate high risk to enter the water.

During the week of Christmas, despite sunny days, the water conditions were not ideal. Akumal Bay was set to a red flag during these days because the wind and currents were strong, the visibility poor and the normally calm bay was quite choppy. In fact, the conditions were so bad that the harbor captain closed the port and stopped all recreational boating operations for several days.

Yet, despite the closure, some locally-operated snorkel cooperatives continued to conduct their tours, risking the safety of their clients.

Dec23-Diario de Quintana Roo

From Diario de Quintana Roo (December 23, 2015)
http://www.dqr.com.mx/index.php/sections/tulum/24907-arriesgaron-vida-de-turistas

2. Disregarding the federally decreed Fish Refuge

In April 2015, the federal government declared an area around Akumal Bay a fish refuge—meaning that the span of about 7km long and 1.5km from shore is a no-take zone. Yet, visitors and residents have reported on several occasions seeing various activities (spearfishing and shore fishing for example) that contravenes the federally recognized decree from. Additionally, there are rules such as that no fish should be cleaned or discarded in the bay.

In a recent article posted on the CEA website, a video has been circling social media in regards to a rather unusual discovery—turtles feeding on barracuda carcasses. The article raises many questions as to where the fish were caught and why the carcasses were in the bay in the first place (to chum/attract wildlife or just discarded overboard?) Either way, both would be against the rules. And yet again, the rules don’t seem to apply for whoever tossed or placed them in the bay.

turtles in akumal bay eating fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complete article can be found here: http://goo.gl/bH1gqs

3. Squatting on Concession Areas

In another social media post, this time on a local hotel page, an independent tour operator had set up shop in the hotel’s beach concession area. The following images and information was posted:

We want our hotel guests to know that the snorkel tour vendors who have set up on the beach area of the hotel are in NO way affiliated nor employed by Hotel Akumal Caribe or the surrounding businesses. In fact, this group doesn’t have the required authorization (government issued concession/permit) to even conduct business in this area. Since government action takes time, we ask for your support and not encourage illegal behavior by contracting any services with these groups.

HAC facebook image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those that may not be aware, each beachfront hotel or property that plans on using the 20 meter federal area of beach must have a federally issued permit or “concession” to do so. Additionally the laws clearly state that no selling or peddling is permitted in the concession area. (Article 12 of the Ley Federal de Zona Federal)

Despite being asked to leave by police and fiscal authorities, the guides return the very next day like nothing happened and set up shop once again.

Even in the past week, it seems there are more groups and individuals contravening the concession laws by selling food, snacks, hats and of course snorkel tours.

hotel vendors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From these examples, it is obvious that if there is not constant enforcement of the rules, some believe that the rules don’t exist. Where it gets odder is that some guides aren’t capable of upholding their end of an agreement.

4. Defying changes to the beach access

In December, as an attempt to organize the flow of traffic to the beach before the beginning of high season, Centro Ukana I Akumal had redirected beachgoers and commercial operators to the beach access through the main building which resulted in a roadblock into Akumal protesting the closure of the path entrance. After four days, an agreement was reached that the beach path would be for the people of the pueblo for their personal and recreation use and the other entrance would be for everyone else, including commerical snorkel groups/tours. And yet despite this agreement, some snorkel groups refuse to comply.

As posted on Centro Ecologico Akumal’s page:

guides entering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A group of guides employed by several local snorkel tour operators has decided to disregard the agreement reached on December 20th regarding the Centro Ukana I Akumal AC beach entrances. The agreement reached outlined that locals would have access to the beach via the path, however, it would be for their personal/recreational use only. All others, including commercial snorkel groups, would use the main entrance to the beach on the property.

So, if a tree falls and a group of people were there to watch it fall and confirm that it fell with documents and photos, it becomes hard to debate that the falling tree wasn’t heard.

These are just four examples from the past month that illustrate the belief for some that rules can be disregarded, ignored, or broken, especially if there are no authorities to enforce them.

Yet, the rules, guidelines, or agreements serve a purpose: to ensure safety to national and foreign tourists; to provide order to Akumal Bay; and to preserve the natural beauty and resources that many depend on. Sadly, for some individuals and groups, there is little respect for creating and maintaining order, little regard to safety, and not much concern the ecosystems.

If these rules can’t be followed and even a voluntary agreement by some of the participants can’t be respected, it begs the question how a comprehensive bay management plan for Akumal will ever be adhered to.

However, what has become very clear by these examples is that the missing piece of the philosophical thought experiment statement are the authorities. If rules are made and a legal authority is there to oversee or enforce them, then the rules must certainly exist.

 

High Season is Here

Akumal on Saturday, January 2

PHOTO TAKEN ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 2, 2016

January 4, 2016

With the holidays rounding out and cold temperatures in various parts of the northern hemisphere, there is certainly no doubt where everyone is heading: South. But looking at the beach in Akumal the first week in January, you would think that that message was more fine-tuned to read Akumal.

The main street into Akumal was clogged, traffic at a standstill, parking mayhem, and people scattered about with no regards to the vehicular traffic. And the beach–what beach? Beyond the towels, umbrellas, coolers and shade tents set up with bodies sprawling, there was little space to be found or sand to be seen. And then there is the bay itself, “snorkeler and swimmer soup” as one tourist called it. Guests of the various hotels and condos reported they preferred to stay on property by the pool or patios instead of battling the traffic and the crowds of day trippers  on the beach.

And this is why the government needs to act sooner rather than later, for Akumal Bay cannot sustain this volume of people. In December 2015, the government approved the justification study based on the various studies and specific evidence provided by CEA and the lobbying by numerous people, to proclaim Akumal Bay a turtle refuge. But the official declaration has been slow in the making. By declaring it a refuge, the government authorities would then be able to implement capacity limits  and oversee a management plan; the capacity limits for both the beach and the bay would help achieve sustainability.

It is critical that the government take action to not only declare Akumal a Turtle Refuge but to also enforce capacity limits and a management plan before it is too late.

Threat of Yet Another Blockade in Akumal

FRIDAY, JANUARY 8, 2016

The rumors have started. The whispers are being spread. And the not-so secret meetings of the renegade cooperatives, who believe they are the exception to any rule or agreement, are happening.

What’s the issue?

Same as before—the access to the beach through the pathway located on private property.

On December 20, 2015, a few things were established:

  • The path entrance can be used for locals-only (people from the pueblo)
  • The path entrance would be for the locals’ recreational/personal use only (no commercial activity)
  • All commercial activity would be rerouted through the CUIAC property

After this arrangement, which was agreed to, the roadblock was taken down. But it begs the question, did the renegade tour guides/operators who didn’t agree merely see this as a temporary truce? As time to regroup and plan their next step?

Anything is possible, right? It does make one believe this is exactly what was done because on Wednesday, January 6, local guides began using the “locals-only” entrance effectively breaching the agreement that the entrance was not to be used for commercial purposes.

It is a blatant disregard to the agreement. Essentially, this act of defiance is a middle-finger salute to not only the property owners but also to the local agreement-respecting community. It also reflects badly on the authorities who were there to ensure the agreement be respected yet stood by to watch it happen.

So what’s being done?

From what we’ve seen and have been told, the property management (CUIAC) hasn’t taken action. They are aware of the breach in the agreement and released a statement earlier today which stated, “Not wishing to cause conflict and knowing that a meeting is scheduled with local authorities today, property management has not intervened.”

And what about the blockade?

As of now, the road is clear. But who knows what will happen after the meeting. Predicting this group’s actions is like predicting that of a petulant teenager.

For those only passing though or reading some of the media coverage, you may not have realized that during the December roadblock the protesters (mostly comprised of tour operators/guides) accosted and harassed various members of the community (locals, expats and tourists alike as they crossed the blockade or were refused entry into Akumal in vehicles), cut down trees on private property to create the roadblock, disposed of garbage in the forest during this time, misrepresented themselves as staff and members of the ecological society in the press, posted threatening and violent messages towards respected community leaders in the pueblo, disregarded the port authority’s bay closure and the safety of their clients to go snorkeling, and directly impacted their fellow pobladores from earning a living.

That is the just a small scale view. The ripples continue outward yet somehow I doubt the global picture of impacting tourism or even ecology by unsustainable practices is being given a second thought.

Final thoughts

It is just really unfortunate. Clearly, this is a very passionate group of people who believe in what they are fighting for, but would it not be amazing to harness this passion and use it to apply pressure on the government to finally declare Akumal a Turtle Refuge? Or to focus the energy into creating a viable and sustainable management plan?