The regulation to protect the sea turtles
You may have read many different things on internet or social media about the Swim with Turtles activity… To make it clear, here the details of the Akumal Bay regulation, and the good news is that it is possible to swim with the turtles, following the regulation (from 2017).
We are excited for the law protecting our turtles and set up of sustainable activities.
As a result of the law, Absolute Adventure Mexico has partnered with a local cooperative to be allowed to bring tourists snorkeling in the bay.
2017 Akumal bay regulation summary:
- Swimming and sighting of sea turtles is only permitted from 9am to 5 pm.
- Snorkeling session cannot exceed 55 minutes.
- Both the entrance and exit of the sighting area should be done slowly and quietly walking along the beach.
- Tourists should use exclusively the routes and timetable established by CONANP.
- Mandatory Guide: It will be carried out in groups of up to 6 people plus a guide authorized by CONANP.
- Life jackets are mandatory (to avoid total immersion).
- The minimum distance between groups that do the activity will be 10 meters (33 ft).
- Tourists must maintain a minimum distance of 3 meters (10 ft) from the back of each turtle, without exceeding the observation time of five minutes.
- Camera flash are forbidden. Only use of recreational underwater camera/video allowed. Camera sticks must not be put too close from the turtles.
- During the course of snorkeling it is prohibited to touch, feed, disturb, retain, remove, hold, and / or damage any specimen of wildlife.
- If the turtle shows signs of rapid movement, evasion, or sudden changes of direction, or longer dives, observation activities will be immediately suspended
- Only the use of biodegradable sunscreens is allowed.
Why this regulation?
Akumal Bay has high biological wealth which provides alimentation and rest zone for three species of sea turtles: Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
The bay offers an easy access with shallow and pristine waters, where sighting of sea turtles and others wild species can be enjoyed it by swimmers and snorkelers. So it makes the Akumal bay the perfect place to swim with turtles.
With the growth of the tourism in the state of Quintana Roo, Akumal became a great place for sighting without any regulation. In 2015 the beach access was disputed between the community and different public and private actors.
That is why the Environment Agency of Mexico (SEMARNAT*) started to work on a regulation for conservation of Akumal and protection of the natural habitat of the sea turtles. They published a technical study for the protection and conservation of the bay.
On July 6th 2016 the SEMARNAT introduced a new law, effective same day, to limit the number of swimmers with turtles in the bay of Akumal. The limit decreased from thousands of swimmers a day to less than 300. Only few local cooperatives are allowed to bring twelve individuals per day, which is controlled by the PROFEPA**.
The last review of the regulation was published in April of 2017 introducing new guidelines for the activity.
* SEMARNAT: Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales – Secretary of Ambient Environment and Natural Resources
** PROFEPA: PRocuraduría FEderal de Protección al Ambiente – Federal Administration of the Ambient Protection
*** CONAP: COnsejo National de Areas Protegidas