Monthly Archives December 2016

Bay Patrollers selling tours and charging an entrance fee under the guise of being the official authorities

December 22, 2016
Last week an Argentinian man approached the fiscal inspectors on the beach in Akumal to report how he was tricked into paying an entrance fee into Akumal Bay.

As he explains in the video, he drove into Akumal and was stopped at the first palapa on the road. The people from the first palapa told him that they are the authority and in order to enter the bay and snorkel with the turtles he had to pay 500 pesos per person to get a bracelet which included a tour guide and was limited to 60 people per day. The man believed what he was told and paid a total of 1000 pesos for two individuals to enter and have a guide. However, when he got to the beach and saw many other vendors and way more people than the supposed daily limit of 60, he began to ask their prices, which were all different. The man realized at this point that what he was initially told was a lie and out of frustration reported the incident to the fiscal inspectors.

The inspector recognized that this is a problem that they are dealing with and would write up a report on the person. He also acknowledged that misleading tourists affects the reputation of the guides. In the end the inspector is heard saying that those people are the authority* because they are registered by PROFEPA and know how to best protect the bay.

*PROFEPA registered various guides and cooperatives to form a “vigilancia committee” to assist in monitoring the bay. Being registered by a government authority does not make the committee or its members government authorities.) 

But the question is this: Can you put the trust of protecting the bay in the hands of those who use such underhanded tactics to get business in the bay? How can conservation happen when those registered by PROFEPA to help protect the bay are the same ones seeking profit at any cost or consequence to the tourist and reputation of Akumal?

Incidents like these are impacting Akumal and tarnishing its reputation as a quaint and idyllic beach town. There is certainly nothing quaint or idyllic about being harassed, lied to, scammed or cheated. But this is the way Akumal is shaping up to be and by which its reputation is now being reflected. This situation can change when the protection plan is implemented, regulated and supervised directly by the government authorities, and when the capacity limit is set and respected. Meanwhile, the situation is only getting worse.

NB: There is no entrance fee to enter Akumal Bay. 

Bad Behaviour in the Bay

In the past week there have been two separate incidents involving one “tour guide” who has physically assaulted and threatened individuals. 

On Wednesday, December 14, a Canadian man was snorkelling in Akumal Bay when he was physically accosted by a “tour guide” as he ordered the tourist how to snorkel. Screaming and insults were heard by the lifeguard onsite who went out by kayak to inspect the situation. The tourist was brought to shore where he described and demonstrated how the tour guide punched him in the face and hit him with his buoy.

Watch video here: canadian-accosted-on-akumal-bay-by-tour-guide-december-2016.

Police were called and took an initial report. The tourist was asked to go to Tulum to place a formal complaint against the tour guide, however, this was something the tourist was either unable or unwilling to do, so the matter did not proceed and no consequences have been given to the tour guide.

The following day, December 15, 2016, the same guide approached the lifeguard and started screaming that because of his intervention and the videos recorded at the time and posted, his reputation as a tour guide is now being affected through social media. The lifeguard clarified that he was doing his job and that any disturbance in the water is his responsibility to investigate. The guide got closer to the lifeguard and swung at him, in front of the fiscal inspectors–employees working for a branch of the state government responsible for commercial permits. The inspectors intervened and called the police. The police arrived, and again said that formal reports need to be issued in the Tulum office. All parties, including the fiscal inspectors attended as witnesses.

The civil court judge heard both sides and his conclusion was that unless there was concrete physical evidence of aggression (bruises, lesions or cuts) he was not able to issue a restraining order or provide alternative repercussions against the guide. Video and witnesses are apparently not sufficient evidence. The judge then drew up an agreement to maintain peace and if both sides didn’t sign the agreement, they would be held in jail for 36 hours.

The bottom line is this: there is absolutely no excuse or justification for using physical aggression in either of these cases. But perhaps the saddest part of these incidents is that the guide continues to work in Akumal without any consequences to his actions.

A Joint Operation “Crackdown” in Akumal

On December 8, 2016, PROFEPA issued a press release-type post on the government website regarding a recent joint “crackdown” operative in Akumal Bay. (See translated article below)

The release outlines recent activities carried out by PROFEPA and SEMAR (Secretariat of the Marines) to monitor the infractions being carried out in Akumal regarding SEMARNAT-issued permits and environmental laws for the declared refuge.

While this crackdown and published details of these recent actions may appear as a positive step in the right direction, enforcement remains to be slack and inconsistent.

Yesterday’s press release indicates that the joint-operation stopped a total of 90 people from different tour operators (who did not have government authorization/permits) for entering the bay. However, what is perhaps more important are the details that were not published.

What was omitted from the report was that after the unauthorized 90 people belonging to at least two different tour companies left as requested, they quickly returned to the bay, split into smaller groups, rented equipment and hired guides with the cooperatives. The 90 people that PROFEPA refused entry for legal and environmental reasons still managed to enter the bay.

If the PROFEPA inspectors are truly focused in reaching their objective of preservation and conservation by “limiting the tourist influx so that it doesn’t jeopardize the sustainability of the site” why weren’t those 90 people stopped when they re-entered the bay with the cooperatives? Why were blinders put on the second time around? If 90 people from outside tour companies have an impact on the bay, don’t the same 90 people have an impact on the bay with a cooperative? The math is the same.

What is also interesting to note is the companies that have been listed as having violations are outside tour companies. Not one cooperative is listed. Yet, violations regarding SEMARNAT permits for daily numbers are being violated each day by cooperatives. Again, why have the cooperatives not been listed as offenders, when offences are taking place, some even being done directly in front of the PROFEPA inspectors on the beach.

Are the cooperatives above the law? Are the authorities being selective about who they apply the law to? The large tour companies should be curtailed, but the law should apply to everyone—dive shops, cooperatives, independents and large tour companies.

Until the law is applied equally to everyone, capacity limits are realistically set, and government officials stop lining their pockets with bribes and payoffs to turn a blind eye, the situation will only get worse.


Translated article from government website below. See Original in Spanish.


PROFEPA AND SEMAR CARRY OUT SECURITY OPERATIONS IN THE PROTECTED AREA OF SEA TURTLES IN AKUMAL

PROFEPA carried out an operation in Akumal Bay, Quintana Roo, which allowed for the removal of three tourist agencies for illegal operations and prevented the entry of 90 people to swim with turtles, without authorization from SEMARNAT.

  • They removed 3 companies for not having permission from SEMARNAT who sought to enter 90 people in the swimming area with Chelonya mydas (green turtle).
  • 13 tour operators breached a total of 128 administrative acts by operating without federal authorization, using fins and not respecting the limit of swimmers.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA) carried out an operation in Akumal Bay, Quintana Roo, which allowed for the removal of three tourist agencies for operating illegally and prevented the entry of 90 people for swimming with turtles activities who did not have the authorization from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).

The action was carried out with the support of elements of the Navy Secretariat (SEMAR) attached to the Naval Sector of Cozumel, allowed to add in the total of 13 companies sanctioned by this office with 128 administrative acts against it, during the year, for not respecting the rules established by environmental legislation.

In response to recent public and social demands from the PROFEPA regional office in Akumal and elements of the Navy found that retired agencies introduce more tourists, severely damaging marine corals and the turtles.

The federal inspectors of PROFEPA have verified the compliance of authorizations issued since July 2016 and that, failing them, national laws and basic principles of conservation and preservation of marine flora and fauna are contravened.

During the current year, PROFEPA issued 128 acts of violation to 13 agencies that operate without authorization, including: Ocean Tours Playa S.A. de C.V; Cancun Adventures S.A. de C.V; Blue Caribe Ecotours S.A. de C.V; Wild Ak Tours S.A. de C.V; Rogazzi Tours S.A. de C.V; Scuba Caribe S.A. de C.V; Jungle Maya; Maya Natures: Asun Adenture Akumal S.A. de C.V; Mayan Fantasy Tours; Maya Adrenaline; Ruta Maya and Apple Vacations.

The objective of the operation is to prevent the use of fins that severely damage marine corals, including; Elkhorn (Acropora palmata), Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis), and soft corals or sea fans; (Plexaura homomalla and Plexura dichotoma).

In addition to prevent the seagrass, which turtles feed on, from being stepped on and damaged, including, Thalassia testudinum,Syringodium filiforme and Halodule wrightii. Also, not to touch, harass, stalk or harm sea turtles classified as endangered according to NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, which includes, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

It should be noted that the actions are due to the conservation of natural protected areas and commitments established, in compliance with the regulations, that marine resources are assets of the nation that must be preserved, as of the March 7, 2016 decree that made Akumal Bay a Refuge Area.

This area includes the marine portion located in front of the towns of San Miguel, in the municipality of Solidaridad and the towns of Akumal, Aventuras, Bahía Príncipe, Chemuyil, Xcacel-Xcacelito and Esperanza, all these in the municipality of Tulum.

That is why PROFEPA, in coordination with the Ministry of the Navy, responds to the protection needs of the national territory to avoid the depletion of natural resources.

The implementation of operations in Akumal Bay prevents actions that seriously jeopardize the sustainability of the site, so a tourist influx must be maintained according to the carrying capacity of the area, as well as the unique resources that are housed in it.

The joint inspection and surveillance actions in the Federal Maritime Land Zone and within the patrimonial sea with the support of the Secretariat of the Navy will be permanent to avoid the continuation of illicit actions being committed, since they must protect the marine ecosystems that contribute the ecological and unique wealth for the country.

It should be noted that the sanctions issued by the Office of the Attorney General will be qualified under the General Wildlife Law that establishes fines of up to 50 times according to a fine table, in addition to the corresponding criminal complaints that according to the Federal Penal Code could reach penalties from one to nine years in prison and from three hundred to three thousand day’s fine.

Snorkelers rescued in Akumal

We are sharing this post from Centro Ecologico Akumal on a recent rescue of snorkelers and additional safety tips for swimming or snorkeling in the bay.

You can find the original article on the CEA website.

Snorkelers rescued at the mouth of Akumal Bay

December 7, 2016

On Monday, December 5, 2016 at 2:30 in the afternoon, three snorkelers got caught in the strong outgoing current at the mouth of Akumal Bay and were rescued in a joint effort by the onsite lifeguard and a Dive Center boat manned by two Dive Center staff.

There were no serious injuries, however, one snorkeler was treated for minor abrasions.

The snorkelers, who rented snorkel equipment, told rescuers that they were not made aware of or briefed about the conditions and currents in the bay.

Without the trained personnel and their quick actions, the potentially dangerous situation could have ended quite differently.


BE SAFE AND SMART!
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE HEADING INTO THE BAY

While most companies or cooperatives operating snorkel tours in Akumal will also rent equipment, it is evident that not every outfit is providing full explanations, directives on the dynamics of the bay, or even the snorkeling guidelines.

Visitors to Akumal Bay who choose to snorkel independently with their own gear or with rental gear should become familiar with the following:

For those visitors renting gear, be sure to:

  • Get a full briefing from the rental provider (conditions, currents, flags, best practices for snorkeling). Both dive shops in Akumal include this briefing as part of the equipment rental process.

  • Ask questions if you do not feel the briefing was complete or clear.

  • Feel comfortable and confident with the gear you have rented.

And on top of everything, know your limits and abilities. While it is not mandatory to hire a guide, if you are new to snorkeling or don’t feel confident in regards to the conditions or currents, consider hiring a guide from a legitimate business who is experienced, licensed, first-aid qualified and insured.