Monthly Archives October 2016

Snorkeling Incident Report (October 16)

October 20, 2016

The following report was written and submitted to the management of their hotel by two tourists–one, a long term and repeat visitor–who wished to highlight the level of discontent they experienced in regards to the attitude and disrespectful behavior of one individual in particular, who has absolutely no authorization to impose or enforce the non-existent rules stated in this report.

The report is as follows:

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On Sunday October 16, my boyfriend and I had a negative snorkeling experience. We were approached by a tour guide in Akumal Bay (close to where the Catamaran is anchored) and were told to get back to shore. The man aggressively swam towards us, cutting us off as we tried to ignore him and continue on our way. He told us that were not allowed to swim with fins on if we were not with a tour guide.

I told him I grew up here and have never had a problem. I told him the ocean is not private property and to leave us alone. He said there are new rules. He got even closer to us and took pictures of us on his camera and said he was going to report to us to the police. He was not backing off and getting closer and closer to the point he was nearly swimming on top of my boyfriend–motioning for us to go back to shore.

Another snorkeler intervened and said he had no right to tell us we couldn’t snorkel in the bay. He then turned his focus towards the other snorkeler and we were able to get away from him.

We later showed a photo we were able to get of the man bothering us and found out his name was Fernando Gamboa.

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Fernando Gamboa Gamboa has been reported on previous occasions regarding similar behavior. He is seen daily in Akumal Bay and has identified himself as a PROFEPA “vigilancia committee” member and is also in the business of snorkel tours.

Akumal Dive Center staff verbally threatened by local guide

October 17, 2016

Yesterday, Sunday, October 16, 2016, an employee of Akumal Dive Center was verbally threatened by a local guide after telling the two guides who were selling their snorkel tours in front of the dive center and on the ZOFEMAT concession area that this activity was forbidden.

According to the report by the Dive Center employee, the guides were approached and asked to stop selling their tours on the concession area, yet the guides refused stating that they will continue to sell their tours because the beach is free and public.

The Nativos cooperative guide, Adrian N. who also goes by the nickname of “zombie” threatened to beat up the Dive Center employee once they were offsite. Not long after, several other guides approached, including a member of the “vigilancia committee” who all claimed that they had every right to sell their tours wherever they pleased, in spite of them having a point of sale at the entrance to Akumal.

Another Dive Center employee added, “The situation is is beyond ridiculous. You have these guides who have instigated other acts of vandalism and refuse to follow legal requirements, yet they are the same guides who were appointed by PROFEPA as a ‘vigilancia committee’ and now, an upstanding and respectable member of the community is being threatened with physical harm.”

PROFEPA was absent from the beach on Sunday and the issue was never resolved.

When will the authorities in charge take charge?

October 16, 2016

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A tour group of 15 people and one guide walk down the beach, past PROFEPA officers stationed at the beach, yet were not stopped, despite violations with numbers.

Frustration is mounting among residents, tourists, hotel owners and conservationists in Akumal with the lack of accountability and nonexistent enforcement of the federally recognized Refuge for Protected Marine Species.

“Each day there are a multitude of violations that you see on the beach and in the water—from the authorized tour operators exceeding their sanctioned limit of 12 people per day to the continuing stream of tour groups, without permits to operate in Akumal, bringing groups of up to several dozen,” describes a long-term resident of Akumal.

“When is it going to stop? Something has to be done. It is already out of hand, yet PROFEPA is taking a back seat on the offences happening around them each day. How is it that they do absolutely nothing to control the situation or enforce the permits issued by the government? It is a complete joke!”

PROFEPA has an office in Akumal and maintains some presence on the beach. Yet much like the account of the long-term resident, when PROFEPA is on the beach, they only take notes or chat with tour guides and tourists. In regards to enforcing the numbers outlined in the federally-issued permits, they do nothing. Snorkel groups with more than 12 people pass directly in front of them and they let them enter the water.

“There is an air among the Akumal-based guides of being above the law, states a frequent visitor to Akumal.

“Without any sort of enforcement or legal consequences, I guess in some way they are, aren’t they? Even their past activities—burning the police station, damaging private property, reconfiguring buoys without authorization—have gone without any sort of consequence and that seems to have reinforced in their minds that laws do not apply to them.

“They shamelessly invent new rules, call the buoyed area their private zone and force people to take tours. Just look at the online forums—people are posting all sorts of stories about how they were verbally and some physically accosted by these guides and others are openly stating that they refuse to return or stay in Akumal. You can’t blame the tour operators or guides for wanting to do business, but at what cost? The demise of the reef, the destruction of turtle habitat, the negative perception of Akumal—a community that relies on tourism?”

In the past 48 hours, according to a local hotel manager, there have been several incidents at the hotel that have infringed on private property and violated ZOFEMAT concession.

According to the manager the first violation happened on Friday when a tour group came from Playa del Carmen to Akumal and set up operations within their concession for the federal zone.

The manger clarified that in order to have the concession, there is a legal contract which outlines what activities can and cannot be done in the designated area of the federal zone. Selling and operating tours is not one of those activities permitted.

The group, according to the manager, was asked to leave and despite being shown the concession contract refused. Finally, when the police arrived the group departed.

Note that his tour company operates a Facebook page which has now removed all previous videos of their Akumal tours and no longer advertises tours to Akumal.

“We have found guides within our property hawking their tours, arguing that they were not conducting business (yet clearly wearing their tour uniform), or claiming that since there was no fence, it was public and they had every right to be there. Again, it wasn’t until the police were called that they left.”

The third incident occurred just last night, October 15. The manager reported that a vehicle entered the property to pick up their cooler and another person leaving from the beach, but while waiting, was blocking the access for other vehicles getting in and out of the property. A guard asked the driver to move the vehicle and he refused. Another guard noted the man smelled of alcohol, which could explain the escalation of his aggression—the driver didn’t want to move his vehicle and got out of his car to pick a fight with the guard, and eventually slapped the guard so hard, his nose began to bleed.

“The matter became quickly more complicated due to the arrival of a group of local cooperatives who began shouting accusations to guards, including the wounded guard and turning the incident around, even though they never saw the event unfold,” explained the management staff.

The driver and his wife along with the security guard were taken by police to Tulum to settle the issue in front of a civic judge. The group of cooperatives followed, but police did not allow them to interfere in the matter. The hotel did not press charges and everyone was let go after the matter was put in front of the judge.

“You can see that there is very little respect by these guides and tour operators when it comes to laws, even private property,” explains the manager. “Not only do they think they are better than the law, but in some cases they want to be it or insert themselves in situations they have no business being.

“It is unfortunate that when you politely remind a guide or tour operator of their infraction it turns into an argument or in some cases a physical fight and it’s only when police are asked to step in that any result is achieved… and sadly that result is only temporary. They are back the next day to play this game all over again.”

As one national resident put it, “Enough is enough. This chaos has to stop, but the authorities in charge aren’t taking charge. They are supposed to be looking out for the bay, but maybe they look only as far as their own wallets. It is an embarrassment to Akumal, a place I have called home for more than eight years.

 

The chaos in the bay continues

We recently came across this interview in the PorEsto! with Wilberth Marrufo Xiu–co-owner of the Piratas. The Piratas are the main cooperative and the first to formalize their group in Akumal. They are the same group, who several years ago, were operating under the guidelines of a community-based management plan but decided to push for autonomy and independence in operating their snorkel businesses.

The Piratas were also at the forefront of the recent illegal access take-over and today they are running the access along with other local cooperatives. Yet, in a turn of events, even main actors of the current situation in Akumal realize the level of “anarchy” in Akumal Bay and echo sentiments that local environmentalists have been saying for years.

The following is a translation of an article published in the PorEsto!  on September 25, 2016. The online Spanish version of the article is linked below.  


 

AKUMAL, TULUM, 25 September— It’s not just the local people, but also service providers in the bay are finding themselves  a part of the chaos in this  paradisaical location, which puts its fate at risk, noting that there is no interest in its preservation.

Wilberth Marrufo Xiu, a commercial tour/service provider in Akumal Bay, Bay laments at the anarchy in the bay, of seeing who can do more (business), not really caring about the fate of the marine ecosystem that is what worries the federal authorities.

“I see chaos  in the  bay, people coming from not only  the town but equally from other businesses , they all take part, there are people selling their passes in the federal zone, forcing on the one hand for them to hire  guides, and  on the other hand allowing  the entry of numerous groups from travel agencies.

There are a number of tourists being allowed to come from other municipalities from the north of the state, yet  when they enter they were the first to tell  everyone to watch over the natural resources in the area, and  renting  equipment, they  all do what they want without any exception,” he says.

They lie to people and tell them that if they do not hire a guide, they will be imprisoned, among other harassment aimed towards visitors.

“If the authorities do not create order in Akumal Bay, within a year we will have no reefs; anything related to tourism in Akumal will be over, ” says Xiu Marrufo.

As it is working today, everyone is creating the disorder, each looking out for their own economic interest.

In the case of the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa), they are doing little, just look at the actions they do, they take pictures, without knowing how to really proceed.

In response, the respondent considers it urgent that the authorities put a stop to the game of self interest in this paradisaical tourist spot, a unique destination in the world, being the habitat of the sea turtle.

 

Original article, “Continúa el desorden en la bahía”  can be found online

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