The Mesoamerican Reef is the largest transboundary reef system in the world and contains the world's second longest barrier reef. The system stretches across four countries, along more than 1,000 km of coastline and is a hotspot for biodiversity including endangered marine turtles, more than 60 types of corals and more than 500 fish species.
Millions of tourists visit the region each year, drawn by the opportunity to dive in remote locations, swim with the world's largest congregation of whale sharks, and relax on incredibly scenic beaches. Ironically, these activities and the related coastal development threaten the very resource on which they depend. WWF is working together with communities, governments and other non profit and academic organizations to renew the integrity of this delicate reef system and secure its resources for generations.
Not only does the MAR represent unique biodiversity that warrants protecting, but it also provides critical ecosystems services vital to communities. About two million people depend directly on the MAR’s marine resources for their survival. The reef provides essential ecosystem functions to coastal communities, protecting the coast from severe storms and supporting commercial and local fisheries, local consumption and tourism.
The largest congregation of whale sharks in the world.
Nesting and foraging habitat for 4 of the world's seven marine turtle species (Green turtle, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Loggerhead).
The Yucatan hosts the largest nesting population of the Hawksbill in the Atlantic (and the seventh largest in the world).
The MAR – in particularly the Placencia Lagoon—has the largest known seagrass meadow of Halophila baillonii in the entire world, critical habitat for the endangered West Indian Manatee.
Acroporids, a reef-building coral species, declined by 98% throughout the Caribbean in the past 30 years and are listed as in danger of extinction by the IUCN. The MAR hosts some resilient genotypes of these corals, which are critical for reef conservation.
The spiny lobster fisheries of the Honduran-Nicaraguan shelf are the most productive in the Mesoamerican Reef region, contributing approximately 15.71% of the total production in Latin America (FAO 2012).
In 2012 in Quintana Roo, México, reef related tourism brought $5 billion to the state, representing 49% of the economic activity and employing 34% of the working age population.
In Belize, the reef's fisheries, tourism and coastal protection services are estimated to contribute $221 to $310 million per year in ecosystem services.
WWF works from ridge to reef to protect the Mesoamerican Reef System because the health of the marine environment is critically tied to inland and coastal activities. Conservation is achieved by integrating efforts in the upper watersheds, agricultural plains, coastal zones and the marine environment to address the largest threats to ecosystem integrity. Our work is focused on reducing the footprint of commercial agriculture, fisheries and local industry; promoting climate change adaptation and mitigation; and minimizing the impact of tourism and coastal development.
We work on critical watersheds that drain into the Mesoamerican Reef, to ensure fresh water and ecosystems conservation. We do this by joining efforts with our partners, for the benefit of nature and communities.Read more »
As people flood to the coasts for better opportunities and sustenance, the pressure on coastal resources grows. We work with governments and other stakeholders across the Mesoamerican Reef to develop integrated, climate-smart and science-based solutions to address these threats.Read more »
Marine resources sustain millions of people and a wealth of biodiversity. By promoting sustainable fisheries and a resilient network of marine protected areas, our work helps find the balance between natural resource use and conservation of biodiversity.Read more »