Alacranes Project, a campaign to improve habitat protection in Mexico’s Arrecife Alacranes National Park, sets sail next week with the launch of Oceana’s first expedition in Mexico. Ten Mexican and American researchers will spend 15 days diving in the national park, including an area called Bajos del Norte Reef, to assess the status of the reef and its fisheries.
Arrecife Alacranes (Spanish for “Scorpion Reef) is the largest reef in the southern Gulf of Mexico. It is located 87 miles from the coast of Yucatan and is home to hundreds of marine species, including sea turtles, sea fans, staghorn and elkhorn corals, sharks, clams, pilot whales and dolphins. Species of great commercial importance, like lobster and grouper, are also found in Scorpion reef.
Outside the boundary of the national park sits the Bajos del Norte reef, which remains unprotected and little explored. This area lacks basic scientific information about the reef, which means the expedition gives us the opportunity to identify species and significantly contribute to the scientific record.
To carry out our scientific work, we will use state-of-the-art technology to evaluate the current state of the corals and study the diversity of invertebrates and fish, including those of commercial interest. Onboard, scientists will analyze eDNA – the cellular material shed by organisms – and use photomosaic modeling to create 3D maps of the reefs and enable a census of the species that inhabit them or use the area as part of their migratory route.
This information will help Oceana learn about the current state of the reef and, as part of Project Alacranes, create proposals to protect this resource while also allowing for sustainable managements of its fisheries.