Aerial photograph of multiple boats anchored near a dock in clear blue waters, with buildings along the shoreline

Coral Reefs Under Threat: Rising Sea Temperatures Devastate Mexico’s Coasts

Rising sea temperatures along the coasts of the Mexican Caribbean and Pacific are posing a significant threat to the coral reefs in Punta Cancún, Nizuc, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, and Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. The increase in sea temperature has severe implications for marine ecosystems, which are highly sensitive to changes in water temperature. These changes can lead to coral bleaching and ultimately, death.

Adán Caballero Vázquez, a researcher at the Water Sciences Unit of the Yucatán Scientific Research Center, explained that warmer waters hold less oxygen, creating areas with very low oxygen levels. This shift has already led to changes in circulation patterns in lagoons and the alteration of ocean currents, disrupting the transportation of nutrients and regional climate.

Biologist Frederic Bouchet has raised concerns about the high temperatures in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, which have resulted in the death of 80 to 90 percent of the coral reefs on the seafloor. Bouchet, also a diving instructor, highlighted the devastating impact this has on fish production, as corals are crucial for the marine life that forms part of the human diet. He stressed that a significant portion of the coral reefs has been affected, and without immediate protective measures, the situation could worsen, severely impacting the region's fishing and tourism industries.

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Despite the rising sea temperatures, some coral colonies have shown signs of recovery at various sites on La Roqueta Island in Acapulco, Guerrero, according to biologist and underwater photographer Juan Barnard. Barnard shared his observations from recent dives, noting the resurgence of ripio, a type of coral that was once prevalent on the island.

He explained that the population had declined due to the sharp increase in temperature in the months leading up to Hurricane Otis, which saw temperatures reach 31 degrees at a depth of 15 meters. This rise in temperature has negatively impacted marine ecosystems, leading to a decrease in fish production. Barnard suggested the establishment of coral nurseries, monitored by a multidisciplinary team and supported by diving school operators, to urgently restore and recover the coral populations.