ATLANTA (DECEMBER 6, 2016) – In a recent announcement, Mexico proclaimed a new marine protected area (MPA) to safeguard a majority of the Mexican Caribbean, and will now be the largest in the country. This area will be called the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve and will consist of 5.7 million hectares. One hectare is equivalent to 2.47 acres, resulting in over 14 million acres of protected natural space.

The new Reserve will cover Isla Contoy to Tulum and beyond. The marine areas include coral reefs and areas inhabited by more than 500 species of fish, and an additional 1,900 species of animals and plants. An important feat, Mexico’s national parks administration, CONANP (The National Commission of Protected Natural Areas) will now have authority to enforce environmental regulations in the entire area.

Georgia Aquarium has conducted whale shark research in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, an area now protected under the MPA, since 2004. Alongside partner institutions, Georgia Aquarium helped establish the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve which extends from Isla Holbox to Isla Contoy. The new MPA will connect the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve to the reefs of Cozumel and down the length of the Quintana Roo state. Whale sharks will now be protected in the larger Reserve and under the authority of CONANP for protection. Georgia Aquarium has also brought a large focus on the ramifications of poor ecotourism operations and its effects on native wildlife, like endangered whale sharks.

The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve will provide ample protections for some of the most incredible marine species, including whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, and coral reefs.

To learn more about Georgia Aquarium’s ongoing commitment to whale shark research and conservation, visit georgiaaquarium.org/conserve.