It has been announced that Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park is to be closed to the public at the beginning of October for an unknown length of time.
The Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) will restrict access to much of the Southern part of the Park, which contains many of Cozumel’s most popular dive sites, from 7th October 2019.
The closure is believed to be an attempt to assess and prevent further damage to Cozumel’s coral reefs which have been in recent decline. Since 2018, the reef has been infected by a disease called Stony Coral Tissue Loss or SCTL, which first appeared off the coast of Florida in 2014.
The disease – believed to be caused by a bacterial infection – destroys the soft tissue of many species of hard corals, killing them within weeks or months of becoming infected.
Some reports also suggest that Cozumel’s reefs have been adversely affecting by widespread coral bleaching caused by an increase in pollution and rising water temperatures.
With cruise ships and waste from coastal hotels likely to exacerbate the problems, in closing part of the marine park to divers, it is hoped to raise awareness of the problems now facing reefs in Cozumel.
The dive sites that will be closed in Cozumel are all of the Palancar dive sites, Colombia, Punta Sur, El Cielo, and Maracaibo.
According to a report on www.divenewswire.com, dive sites unaffected by the closure include:
- La Francesa
- Santa Rosa Wall
- San Francisco
- Puta Tunich
- C53 reck dive
- Paradise reef.
From 7th October, 2019, naval vessels will enforce the closure of the area. Meanwhile, work continues behind the scenes to find a solution to both the issues facing the coral reefs and the effects of the closure on local diving and tourism operators.