rules + regulations tagged posts

A Poor Example of Protection Efforts in Akumal Bay

A few weeks ago, the “snorkel with turtles” suspension in Akumal Bay was lifted after only 51 days and SEMARNAT reissued permits to commercial operators.

Much like before, only those with a permit can conduct tours in the bay, and each permit holder is expected to follow certain limitations and restrictions to conduct their business in a sustainable and prescribed way within a specific protected area within the bay. Some of those limitations include:

  • Snorkel activities can only be carried out between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • No more than 6 people/group plus a guide.
  • The minimum distance between groups is 10 meters.

A full list of rules for tourist service providers can be found on CONANP’s Facebook page.

Yet in the past few weeks, since the permits were issued, several rules are being ignored. Case in point, the following irregularities and violations have been witnessed:

  • Snorkel tours are being conducted before the hours of 9 a.m.
  • Snorkel tours are being conducted after 5 p.m.
  • Commercial tour providers rumoured to not having a permit are conducting tours and operating in Akumal Bay.
  • Snorkel groups are exceeding the limit of 6 people per group
  • Snorkel groups are not keeping a 10m distance

Why are the rules being broken?

There are several forces at work, as was the case before the suspension. First and foremost, it comes down to the lack of respect for the rules.

For years, many of these commercial operators have been conducting their business in whatever manner they see fit, focusing on profits first and ecological impact last. Also, history has proven that their conduct of operation comes from a different “playbook”—a playbook that condones setting up shop on private property, conducting business illegally, torching police stations and vehicles, vandalizing and theft as well as acts of physical assault against their fellow citizens and tourists… all actions that have come with minimal or no legal consequences.

So how can it be feasible to go from renegade and rebellious self-serving attitudes to having to follow the rules? Even the former permits which clearly stated a maximum of 12 people per day per tour operator were never followed along with other directives, so what possible incentive or motivation would make them follow the rules now?

Secondly, and perhaps the biggest reason as to why the rules cannot be followed falls onto the responsibility of the authorities with their lack of organization and ineffective enforcement and execution of any sort of overall management.

The most recent permits were reissued before the authorities bothered to conduct any scientific studies to establish the capacity limits for the bay or organize a cohesive management plan or even implement protocols or procedures to oversee or enforce the rules, effectively creating a “cart-before-the-horse” scenario.

Authorities are on the beach, but without a monitored, centralized entrance or organized procedures in place for both in water and on the beach activities, there is no way for the authorities to know the following:

  • which groups are entering—permitted or not,
  • which groups are entering with authorized guide,
  • how many people each group is entering with,
  • which circuit each which group is using,
  • are the groups following the timeline for each circuit, or
  • how many total snorkelers or beach goers have entered the beach that hour or day.

If the authorities can’t effectively monitor the activities, how are they expected to enforce the permit rules?

The simple answer right now is that they can’t. Without structure in place and only two PROFEPA staff to monitor all the activities and actions for over 30 permitted groups (alongside the unpermitted groups) in and out of the water, it is just not viable.

As a result of these serious and definite gaps, many of the tour operators are capitalizing on the situation. Tour groups are entering the bay before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. with more than six individuals because there are no authorities on the beach at these times. And even when there are authorities on the beach between 9 and 5, they simply don’t have the capacity to fully monitor or enforce those entering without a permit or those entering at a different access with more than six people.

Is protection a priority? 

So, it begs the question, is protection of Akumal Bay really a priority?

If protection of Akumal Bay were a priority, then each and every tour operator would be making a conscious effort to respect the rules and demand the same from each permit-holding colleague.

If protection of Akumal Bay were a priority for the authorities, and not just the façade of back patting and congratulatory credit in decreeing a protected area, a cohesive management plan (including capacity limits based on local scientific studies) with various approaches to administer that plan would have been developed and implemented even before the consideration of re-issuing permits to legitimate commercial tour operators with business permits and a business address.

If protection of Akumal Bay were a priority, an effective and comprehensive plan would take into account more than just the guided tours of the bay—it would consider the rental of snorkel equipment (a great contributor to the overuse of the bay), education and information for all users of the bay, and training and education to ensure all guides are qualified, insured, first-aid certified and all operating in a sustainable, standardized and legal manner.

But… when governments are financially encouraged to put the cart first, the priority for the horse is secondary at best—disregarding the vital planning, implementation, enforcement and management steps—thus resulting in Akumal Bay being a poor example of ecological protection designed by all levels of government involved.

Authority Confirms, No Public Access through Club Akumal Caribe

The following note was published in both PorEsto! and Novedades yesterday. Below is a translation.

THE AUTHORITY CONFIRMS THERE IS NO PUBLIC ACCESS THROUGH CLUB AKUMAL CARIBE.

ANYONE STATING CONTRARY TO THIS TRUTH IS LYING.

Some groups of Akumal are lying to manipulate public opinion and the people of Akumal when they say that the property of CLUB AKUMAL CARIBE SA DE CV is in litigation.

What they say and publish is completely “FALSE AND WITHOUT REASON.” The property of Club Akumal Caribe, S.A. of C.V. is not and has never been in litigation.

To understand the falsehoods and lies, it is important to understand the meaning of the word “litigation.” Litigation is a legal discussion before a Superior Judicial Body. The above should not be confused with “conflict” since to deny that there is a conflict would be a waste of time. However, the conflict that exists is caused by the inaction on the part of the Municipality of Tulum to enable the windows to the sea stipulated in the Program of Urban Development of Akumal 2007-2032.

The only thing that is in dispute is the constitutionality of the agreement of the Seventy-Fourth Ordinary Session of the previous Town Council of the Municipality of Tulum, Quintana Roo, held on August 29, 2016…which by the way was their last session.

The previous cabildo (town council) issued its agreement without giving any warning to Club Akumal Caribe when it had the legal duty to give a written notice to the legitimate owner of the property that was under study. This would have allowed the property the possibility to exhibit all the documents and elements of necessary proof and verify their rights and not leave it in a state of being defenseless, as in fact did happen at the moment they dictated the mentioned agreement of the previous cabildo.

Likewise, the act of the previous cabildo violates the constitutional rights enjoyed by all Mexicans. As established in Article 14 of the Constitution, it guarantees that “No one shall be deprived of liberty or property, possessions or rights, except through trial before the courts previously established in which the essential procedural formalities are complied with and in accordance with the laws issued prior to the fact.”

In addition to the above, on February 13, 2017 an official survey was issued (study for the delimitation of terrestrial surfaces) within the Research folder: FGE / QR / AMPTUL / UITUL / 09/17/2016, carried out at the request of the C. Agent of the Public Ministry of the Common Jurisdiction in Tulum, Quintana Roo, which confirms and demonstrates that within the property of the Club Akumal Caribe…THERE DOES NOT EXIST AND NEVER HAS EXISTED AN ACCESS OR PUBLIC PATH TOWARDS FEDERAL ZONE.

As a result of this official document, the agent of the Public Ministry of the Common Jurisdiction of the Municipality of Tulum granted an Order of Protection in favor of CLUB AKUMAL CARIBE SA DE CV.

Unfortunately, this order has not been complied with by the General Directorate of Public Security of the Municipality of Tulum, a situation that has generated more conflicts and intimidation on the part of some groups with personal interests and against CACSA staff as well as the repeated harassment of local visitors and foreign tourists who visit us, these occurring inside the same property of Club Akumal Caribe and before the complacency of the Municipal Police officers on duty who are supposed to protect the safety of the property.

Something very important that we have the moral obligation to clarify is that, “THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN FREE ACCESS TO THE BEACH FOR ALL QUINTANAROENSE THROUGH THE UKANA I AKUMAL A.C. (CEA) AS WELL AS THROUGH THE 7 WINDOWS TO THE SEA ESTABLISHED IN PDU 2007-2032. “

However, it is completely false that “within” the property of Club Akumal Caribe exists or has ever existed a public access or a window of access to the sea as some groups with personal interests want to believe.

The inhabitants of the municipality of Tulum and especially the people of Akumal deserve to know the truth.

It is not fair that by false information of certain irresponsible groups the peace and tranquility of our people is disturbed. CLUB AKUMAL CARIBE only asks that what is right is respected, as legitimate owners…but above all, that irresponsible groups and the Municipal Authorities and the City of Tulum reconsider and act within the legal framework attached to the strict word of the law and not by simple populist acts outside any legal and moral order.

All this is and should be for the well-being of the people of Akumal.

Thank you very much

Akumal, Quintana Roo on March 29, 2017

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.

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.