Yucatán, México

Don Taila's Tuna
Don Taila of Río Lagartos with an Atlantic Bluefin Tuna caught in waters north of the Reserve
More than 44% of land within the reserve belongs to ejidos. This is important, since ejidos can sell their land to private individuals. In our area that usually means ranchers. An ejido is an area of communal land used for agriculture, on which community members individually possess and farm a specific parcel. Learn more on the Wikipedia Ejido Page

Within the reserve there are five kinds of land ownership:

The fact that over 44% of the land belongs to ejidos is not as dangerous to the Biosphere's integrity as it might seem, since all owners, including the ejidos and private individuals who might buy ejido land, are subject to zoning ordinances. However, much depends on close monitoring of activity within the 149,057 acres (60,347 ha) Reserve, and the interpretation and enforcement of zoning regulations.


Here's an example of how things work: Sein-net fishing, throw-net fishing and the use of explosives are thought of as prohibited within the Reserve's waters. These activities not only indiscriminately remove fish, but also destroy sea-grass vegetation, which serves as food and shelter for many fish species, including important commercial ones in the estuary and in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the last Director gave special permission for net fishing at certain times, using nets with openings that would catch only large fish, and only in certain places. But some fishermen fudge a bit, use smaller net openings, in forbidden places, and at forbidden times. The former Director is gone now and a new one is at work. Still, every day you see net fishing up and down the estuary. The last Director also gave special permission for beachfront land across the estuary from Río Lagartos to be subdivided and sold to others, so already the structures shown below across the estuary from Río Lagartos are to be seen. We understand that now such bulding is suspended, but who knows for how long?

RANCHERS: Because of historic vagueness of boundaries, instances of invasiones, or "invasions," have occurred, when ranchers claimed land considered to belong within the Biosphere Reserve.

FISHERMEN: Fishing is regulated within the reserve.  Especially when it's too windy to fish or fishing season is over, many fishermen offer themselves as guides on flamingo-viewing tours, in competition with licensed, trained guides.

GUIDES: When fishing season opens and there's not enough inspectors to control who fishes, many guides go fishing, competing with fishermen who depend only on fishing for their livelihood.

THE SALTWORKS AT LAS COLORADAS: Building and maintaining the saltworks historically -- since the time of the ancient Maya -- has resulted in enormous destruction of habitat. Salt production provides important income in the region and the salt is needed. An agreement exists to not expand the current operation.

Beachfront building in Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, Yucatán, México
Beachfront building on private land inside Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve across from Río Lagartos.
Programa de Conservación y Manejo Reserva de La Biosfera Ría Lagartos, 1a edición: Noviembre de 2007. Comisión Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas, México, DF, México.