Rules, limits and enforcement; where things are going wrong in Akumal Bay

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On September 22, a tourist with his friends had just finished renting snorkel gear including lifejackets from the Akumal Dive Center when unfortunately, they were approached by a group of individuals who prevented them from entering the water. These individuals presented themselves as “Bay Vigilance,” some wearing the identifiable green shirts, and others in plain clothes. These men stopped the group and insisted that in order to swim with the turtles, it was mandatory to have a guide.

Staff of both Akumal Dive Center (ADC) and Hotel Akumal Caribe witnessed the abusive attitude and demeanor of the “Bay Vigilance.” They were intimidating the tourists and the driver who brought them. When the staff member of ADC went to assist them, he was also subjected to this intimidation. Finally, the group of tourists were allowed to enter the water on their own, yet when in the water they were also harassed and demanded that they exit the water and hire a guide.

The staff member of Hotel Akumal Caribe went to support the tourists and their right to free access into the water. The group stated they had been given all proper PROFEPA recommendations at the Dive Center and knew their rights. It was then that these “Bay Vigilance” men, who are mostly guides and members of the various cooperatives took out their cell phones and began recording and insulting the staff member of Hotel Akumal Caribe. He notified the authorities including PROFEPA, and the municipal police so that the relevant authorities could be there to clarify the disagreement and discontent.
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According to the hotel staff member who stepped in, “We must avoid such disagreements that are caused by these civilians, guides and vendors representing “Bay Vigilance” that force tourists by threats and harassment or any means to pay a tour guide fees to get in to the bay.”

The PROFEPA staff member that arrived on the scene stated that it is mandatory to have a guide beyond the yellow buoys. Note, he did not say it was a recommendation, although this individual, when pressured, has been reported to say it is only a recommendation.

PROFEPA can only give out recommendations and ensure that the general public upholds the laws that SEMARNAT passes through a Bay Management Plan, which does not yet exist. Therefore, PROFEPA, who should be there solely to uphold the laws of SEMARNAT, are making up their own rules and stating that guided tours are mandatory.

What is interesting is one of PROFEPA’s strategic statements is “to stop the destruction of our natural resources and revert the process of environmental deterioration,” yet they do nothing when it comes to the overuse and consequently the deterioration of the bay. They are doing nothing to ensure that each SEMARNAT permit holder, who have a maximum limit of 12 people per day is being upheld. Nor do they act or limit agencies that enter without any authorization or permit to do so. They are also condoning the sale of tours by their own appointed “ Bay Vigilance”.

In other words, there are no limits being upheld by PROFEPA (within their legal jurisdiction), yet they are imposing rules (outside their jurisdiction) on people to force them to use a guide.

Photo: Two members of the Vigilance Committee patrol the beach of Akumal