Wreck in the Sea

The Identification of Potentially Hazardous Material Discovered In and Around the Mesoamerican Reef Region of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

The Mesoamerican Reef region lies within the Caribbean Sea and touches the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. It contains the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, stretching nearly 700 miles from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down through the Honduran Bay Islands. Dazzling arrays of different types of coral form this underwater wilderness, and provide homes and food to hundreds of fish species, marine turtles, and sharks. Along the shores, mangroves provide habitat for fish and shorebirds as well as protect coastal areas from the damage associated with hurricanes and strong storms. The scenic beauty of the region’s coastal areas makes it a prime tourist destination, which is putting pressure on fragile reef environments. Further inland, rich soils attract large-scale agriculture, whose run-off can severely impact reefs. Increasing sea levels and water temperatures from climate change threaten corals and other marine animals such as turtles, as well as the communities that depend on the reef for their livelihoods and food security. Earlier dives in the area found dozens of man-made items, some as large as shipping containers, resting on or becoming embedded into the delicate reef system. Having several hurricanes pass through the region since the last survey, a team will be heading back to re-survey the area and report its findings. Supporting the field and dive trip will be representatives from the Intituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH), Mexico, and members of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve since our research is in this protected area.