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The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

By Tribune Travel

June 22, 2023

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, commonly known as the Mesoamerican Reef or Great Mayan Reef, stretches over 600 miles from Isla Contoy at the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands in Honduras. It is one of the world’s largest coral reef systems.

The reef system includes several protected wildlife areas and parks, including the Belize Barrier Reef (Belize), Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park (Mexico), Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (Mexico), Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park (Honduras).

Some of the islands perched on the reef include Isla Contoy, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel in Mexico, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye in Belize and the Bay Islands of Honduras (including Utila and Roatan).

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Can you scuba dive at the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef?


The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second-largest barrier reef in the world and the biggest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, only surpassed by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. A barrier reef is a reef that is close by, stretches parallel to a shoreline, and is separated from the land by a large lagoon. In addition to more than 500 different fish species, the Mesoamerican Reef is home to numerous kinds of sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, and whale sharks.

Thanks to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef’s proximity to Cancun, the Riviera Maya, and the Costa Maya, these areas are excellent spots for anyone interested in scuba diving and snorkeling. The Manchones Reef, Cancun’s Underwater Museum, and the C58 Shipwreck are a few excellent diving locations. Prior to traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula, make sure you brush up on your scuba diving skills.


What kind of ecosystem is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef?

Divers by the corals of the Mesoamerican Reef

The coral reef is just one component of an ecosystem that includes mangrove forests, lagoons, and coastal wetlands. Each of these components is crucial to the survival of the whole. As a barrier, mangrove forests serve to prevent pollution from the land from entering the ocean. Additionally, it serves as a nursery for coral reef fish as well as a feeding and foraging area for a variety of marine animals.

Numerous dangers to this ecosystem exist; some, like tropical storms, are produced by the environment; others, like overfishing and pollution, are brought on by human action. Sadly, mangrove forests that are essential to the health of the reef are frequently sacrificed in the name of coastal development. The mangroves and the rest of the local ecology are being maintained by a few hotels and resorts that are defying the trend.


Is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef protected?


Building an artificial reef is one strategy used to safeguard the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. In 2014, this enormous environmental project was started. On the ocean floor close to Puerto Morelos, about 800 hollow pyramidal structures built of cement and microsilica were installed. It is thought that the man-made reef aids in preventing coastal erosion.

The buildings are built to be environmentally responsible, promote the growth of new natural reefs, and restore the ecosystem. It is referred to as “The Guardian of the Caribbean” and is known by the project name Kan Kanán. It is the world’s longest artificial reef, measuring 1.9 kilometers. The artificial reef is arranged in the form of a serpent when viewed from above.

We all can help preserve the reefs and the waters. Please refrain from using sunscreen when swimming, littering the water, taking marine life, purchasing shells or other sea-derived items, and most importantly, never touch the coral or other wildlife.





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