Akumal Today

The following information on this page was current as of 2014. We are in the process of updating the content within this site to reflect the current situation today. All content on the blog is up-to-date.

Akumal Bay – The Situation as of 2014

Akumal Bay Beach as it used to be

Akumal Bay beach as it used to be

In recent years, turtle viewings in the bay have become more and more popular and the independent fishing charter businesses, as well as the dive shops, started offering snorkel tours to view the turtles. These tours have become so lucrative that outside tour operators from all over the coastline now offer snorkel tours, and even taxis and vans have started clandestine businesses with untrained tour guides, improper equipment, and no respect for the bay or the turtles.

The Ecological Center and the property owners of the bay realized that better control of the access to the Federal Zone would ensure the health of the bay, so they applied for a special permit on behalf of two dive shops and Akumal Bay Resort to conduct a limited amount of tours to view the turtles, with strict guidelines.

Innocence Lost.....people everywhere

This worked well for a few years, and all the local operators including the now-called “Piratas” participated in the program. All donations collected from them were used to pay the biologists for their continued investigations, including one biologist who now works with the Piratas. Due to a lapse in regular meetings, a good flow of communication and information, and lack of participation by all actors, the program started to fall apart. Rules were not respected anymore.

This is when the division began between CEA and the businesses working within the bay management plan, and the independent tour operator group Piratas (who were initially unregistered sport fishermen from the pueblo but expanded their services). As a result of the breakdown in local management, increasing numbers of outside tour operators saw this as an opportunity to include in their services “swimming” with sea turtles in Akumal.


Too many people, seems like a market place

CEA invited the Piratas to band together with the bay businesses in order to collectively put order to the bay but they decided to organize themselves independently, thus forming their own cooperative. Recently, both CEA and the Piratas got permits to bring in tours to the bay within each of their separate bay management programs.

The Piratas are currently allowed to bring in 162 snorkel tours a day, and CEA 150, divided by all the properties in the bay. This includes the two dive shops, the independent snorkel guides, and the Akumal Beach Resort that support CEA and their guidelines as outlined in the federally approved bay management plan. It is not clear how the authorities decided to approve 162 snorkel tours for one “small” group and 150 for a group that represents most of the local operators. However, a limit of 300 snorkel tours a day is much better than the over 600 tours being conducted now, with no guidelines or supervision.

However, for these two programs to work, there has to be a better control over the access of “COMMERCIAL TOUR OPERATORS” to the bay. The Piratas do not accept this and have instigated a media and political war, claiming that the current access to the beach is public, and not private property. They simply do not want to accept any other way to get to the beach but this one path, which leads directly to their beach operation kiosk.

The Piratas have not produced any documents that prove this path is public, yet CEA has produced all legal documents, surveys and titles to prove that this land is indeed private. Local government has supported the Piratas and many people in the town have believed the claim that CEA is closing and privatizing the beach, not allowing them to use it, and charging for the entrance. This is not true.

At no time, and in no way, has CEA closed off the entrance, or charged anyone an access fee. CEA’s recent attempt to modify the entrance to a few yards beyond the current location with fencing and rocks was met with a violent show of power from the Piratas, with a 4-hour closing of the entrance to Akumal from the federal highway, causing fear, distress, and confusion to many visitors, homeowners and staff working that needed to get home that night. They proceeded to take down the fencing and have the rocks removed by tractor.

All this happened on private property, with no authorization from the owners or their representatives, and with the support of a local government official and the local police, who did nothing but stand by and ensure that no one intervened. CEA had previously approached the government with documents proving this property is private.

The government accepted this and in no way did they say that CEA could not exercise their private property rights. There are documents from 1975 that show areas of donation that the Piratas are now saying are on CEA property and include area for schools and markets.

This document clearly shows these areas of donation are to the south of Akumal and the government has since brought out a new document called the PDU, Plan de Desarollo Urbano for the area. Those areas of donation are now green areas only and the town services have been moved and provided in both Chemuyil and the town of Akumal.

There are Ventanas al Mar, which are the official beach accesses and there is one to the south of Akumal Beach Resort and some in North Akumal. None are designated in the main bay because it’s all private property. This is all on the official plan of the PDU. There is talk about the ulterior motives of the Board, that they want to control the bay for themselves, and that they are using the ecology as an excuse to have exclusive use of the bay.

This is not true. The property owners are protecting the health of the bay. If the sea life dies, and the bay is so polluted that there can be no tourism, there will be no jobs and no business to conduct. Protection of the turtles and bay is the key motive and objective, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to protect the beauty of the bay, so that future generations including the families of the Akumal pueblo can enjoy it.

There should be no social unrest in Akumal; there should be no personal attacks on individuals of the CEA administration and board.There should be respect for private property rights. This is now a legal issue and the courts will decide. This is not about foreigners vs. Mexicans or rich vs. poor, as the Piratas have stated through the press. The Piratas have a thriving and growing business and the leaders have many other businesses and property in the pueblo.

Their continued misinformation is serving no purpose except to put the destination at risk for losing not only the ecology and health of the bay, but also the beautiful atmosphere of security and trust that made this destination unique on the coastline. Investors, visitors and residents will not feel confident if there are demonstrations, social unrest and bad blood between foreigners and Mexicans. Foreign investment is very important not only to Akumal, but to all of Mexico.