Vigilance Committee tagged posts

Lack of information and communication by authorities creates confusion and disarray in the bay.

Akumal Bay is in a state of uncertainty as well as disarray.

The declaration of the Refuge for Protected Marine Species and with that a new bay management plan now being enforced has created many problems and issues which in turn is confusing and bewildering to those visiting the bay.

The authorities have not implemented any signs, maps or any visual informational to help inform the visitors once they arrive. Additionally, the general public including Mexican nationals, guests of the hotels and resorts and rental properties are unaware that there are government authorities and other monitors in the bay and when someone approaches them when they are already in the water, they naturally react with doubt and reservation as to who the person is.

It does not help the situation either that for the past year at least there have again been groups of guides from several of the tour operator cooperatives that are now “bay monitors”. Many of these are the very same individuals from the former “Vigilance Committee” of the summer/fall of 2016 that were stalking and extorting visitors to take a tour. They were very convincing with their official looking green shirts or “bay patrol” shirts but in fact they were not any legal authority and many were reported for their actions and bad behavior towards tourists.

All of this has been circulating around in social media and over time has had very detrimental effects to Akumal tourism. Anyone that has access to these pages and have either been following the history of these events or are hearing about these incidents for the first time, would naturally be leery of ANYONE approaching them, especially when they are already in the water…let alone consider even coming to Akumal.

In a perfect world, proper informative signage with maps in English and Spanish would be placed in several strategic and visible locations in Akumal, including the beach. An effort would be put into proper training for these patrols that would include better methods to engage visitors such as basic customer service protocols, conflict resolution and that any personnel tasked with these monitoring responsibilities have good communication skills.

The government officials should speak English at the very least but if their decision is to enlist local guides, then they need to also have proper training and be able to communicate effectively (just not speak) in English. They have been sent out on a mission without the tools to carry out the mission!

And to make an effort to try to be polite and professional even educational to visitors would go a long way.

There should be visual aids by way of signage letting people know what the rules are BEFORE they enter the water. There should be someone available to answer questions or doubts. None of this is in place, but we are hopeful that it will be and very soon. The business and property owners of the bay have been requesting this from the authorities and showing them evidence of how a management plan can go very wrong if not monitored correctly.

So one wonders why there is so much conflict now with the present “vigilance committee” of Akumal Bay? And consequently, the actual government officials should be wondering why they are getting a negative reaction from tourists when they approach them…because there in fact is indeed the source of the issues plain and simple.

Snorkeling in Akumal: One Family’s Nightmare, “an absolute disaster”

January 10, 2017

As more incidents of harassment, intimidation and assault are occurring on the beach and in the water by various local guides and their associates, tourists are becoming increasingly frustrated, frightened, and vocal.

The following is a report that was shared with us by an American tourist:

***

I’m writing to inform you that snorkelling in the bay was not as we remembered and an absolute disaster. 

I attempted three times to snorkel in the bay and on all attempts I was accosted by people claiming to be guides insisting I pay them money and saying that life jackets are mandatory. On the third trip in the ocean (December 19 at 10 a.m.) three guys ganged up on my 3 small kids, girlfriend and I.

The one guide was heavy set and was the one that started it all. I told him to get away from us and leave us alone. While he was yelling at us he kept a hand in his pocket as if he had a hand on a knife or something. I kept looking at it underwater to insure I wasn’t about to get stabbed or anything. I never saw a weapon but he seemed to have something in his hand.

Another guy grabbed my girlfriend and attempted to pull her to shore. My kids started crying and were scared with the yelling and seeing this commotion. After my girlfriend broke free, she managed to take these pictures of the incident.

This is the big guy that started the whole thing. Would not leave us alone and had something in his hand in his pocket.  He kept insisting we get out of the water pay him $20 and needed a guide and life jacket.  Keep in mind we were right over 3 beautiful  turtles he was almost kicking with his flippers

This is the big guy that started the whole thing. Would not leave us alone and had something in his hand in his pocket. He kept insisting we get out of the water pay him $20 and needed a guide and life jacket. Keep in mind we were right over 3 beautiful turtles he was almost kicking with his flippers

 

This is the guy who grabbed my girlfriend assertively and tried to take her to shore. She broke free and took his picture.

This is the guy who grabbed my girlfriend assertively and tried to take her to shore. She broke free and took his picture.

 

This is the guy who ran into me with this boat, and threatened us with his paddle held high over his head as if he was going to strike us with it.  I flipped him out of the boat.

This is the guy who ran into me with this boat, and threatened us with his paddle held high over his head as if he was going to strike us with it. I flipped him out of the boat.

 

A young skinny guy in a kayak came over and hit me with the kayak. He held his paddle over his head as if he was going to strike me if I didn’t get out of the ocean. They were yelling that they were going to get the police which was also frightening to us.

My shaken family returned to shore and my kids no longer wanted to return to the ocean in fear of more confrontation.  We left the following day to continue our vacation elsewhere.

Akumal is such a wonderful place, but incidents like these are such a shame. It is disgusting and needs to be stopped somehow. Being assaulted by these guys in the ocean is completely unacceptable. I know it’s a struggle as there are so many of these people that it’s got to be virtually impossible to stop them but something should be done to prevent this. It was not a good experience. It frightened my entire family—including my three kids who are under 11. While everything else in Akumal is great, being in the ocean was a nightmare for my family. I’m very saddened to say we won’t be returning until something is done.

 ***

The tourist who filed this report is correct in saying that something needs to be done.

It is clear from the past several months that self-regulation of the commercial snorkel tours by the local guides/cooperatives is not effective. Here’s why:

  • The daily limit or quota of tourists per cooperative set by the authorities are not being respected.
  • Incidents of assault and intimidation are being tolerated and even supported by fellow guides/cooperatives.
  • Guests and visitors to Akumal are being bullied, threatened, and accosted and into following quasi “rules” such as the mandatory use of life jackets and guides when the authorities have yet to establish the final management plan of the bay nor any sort of formal rules.

NB: Because there is no final and/or enacted management plan for Akumal Bay, there are no set rules for independent snorkelers. Any information currently published, posted or made public by the authorities are “Recommendations” only, not law.

But then again, maybe self-regulation is working… or at least it is working in favour of the cooperatives–they get additional tourism dollars by exceeding their permit quotas and imposing mandatory rentals of life jackets and guide services. Does self-regulation mean self-interest in this case? Because these actions are good indicators that there is little or no regard on the long-term impact on Akumal’s ecosystem, turtles or even the negative lasting impressions of its guests.


The Mexican Department of Tourism has laws for standards of service for all tourism-related businesses which ensures any tourist to Mexico has the right to standards of service, respect and conduct while enjoying the country, and in particular this area where tourism is the key economic driver.

Reports for any unacceptable or abusive behaviour, conduct, or unlawful practice provided by any tourist business can be filed online with the Secretariat of Tourism (SECTUR), which has the responsibility to investigate each report.

http://www.sectur.gob.mx/quejas-e-inconformidades/otros/


SIMILAR ARTICLES

Snorkeling Incident Report—October 16, 2016

Bad Behaviour in the Bay—December 14, 2016

Bay Patrollers selling tours and charging an entrance fee…—December 22, 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. 

“Laws are not being enforced for psuedo-guides” (PorEsto!)

November 11, 2016

The following is the translation of the article printed in the PorEsto! and published online. The original link is below.


poresto-november-9TULUM, November 9—A simple reprimand towards pseudo-guides who enter Akumal Bay with groups of tourists, without documentation and relevant  measures to give sea turtle tours is what has been observed by personnel from the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA).

And although it is obvious that they are trying to give the service without respecting the rules, the inspectors only write down  names and do not proceed with any sanctions.

There are several pirate guides who arrive with groups of about 10 people who intend to give the service, however, they have been detected by personnel of the federal agency that is in charge of reviewing everyone giving tours.

However, in spite of finding irregularities with these people who try to provide services, such as improper vests, snorkeling devices harmful to the environment, lack of documentation, permits and guide credentials, they are only being prevented from giving the service.

Likewise, people who pass as  guides, and that are impeded from doing their activity, leave tourists without knowing if they will get their money refunded they that they paid for the service.

In addition, permit holders working in the bay with sea turtle tours mentioned that there are foreign companies that send guides who do not have documentation, but are not sanctioned, even though they are about to break the environmental standards.

“It is a monitoring committee and PROFEPA staff who have been giving information to people who come about what they can and cannot do on the beaches, but the guides who are detected trying to give service without the permits and safety measures are only prevented from doing the tours and are reprimanded when they should be referred to the competent authorities for this fault,” said one of the cooperatives.

They also said that this makes them think that there could be corruption on the part of PROFEPA, who turn a blind eye to not inspect those who have the permits and for those who do not.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
http://www.poresto.net/ver_nota.php?zona=qroo&idSeccion=2&idTitulo=517927


A FEW THOUGHTS…

Laws and consequences should be for everyone.  For those that have permits and do not adhere to their limits as well as those that have no permits. Those complaining now are quite possibly the same ones that exceed their SEMARNAT permits of 12 people per day.  PROFEPA should apply their mandate to everyone to “Seek environmental justice through the strict enforcement of the Law, banishing impunity, corruption, indolence and lack of authority…”

Along the same lines, earlier this week, PROFEPA were alerted to two men fishing in the ZRPA (Fish Refuge of Akumal) and no consequences given.

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:

—————————

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.

—————————–

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.