Protecting and restoring mangroves along the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula

Small island with mangroves surrounded by water

Along the northern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, communities, tourists, developers, and conservation groups like WWF are working together to protect and restore mangroves and to improve people’s lives.

“My mother fished, she taught my brother to fish, she taught my two sisters to fish—and me,” says Sandy Marruto, who fishes among the mangroves near San Felipe, Mexico. For Marruto and others here, family and tradition run deep. So does a reverence for the ocean, mangroves, and wildlife—marine wildlife in particular.

The coast of the Yucatán Peninsula holds great biological diversity. Its mangroves, sand dunes, and other ecosystems are home to species including flamingos, sea turtles, and even jaguars. WWF is working to support local communities that rely on these ecosystems and, ultimately, to help conserve the remaining habitats and restore the fragments that have been degraded. This work matters now and for the future; mangroves are critical tools to fight and minimize the impacts of climate change.

Meet some of the people WWF is working with to build reliable and resilient livelihoods as they protect and restore the mangroves that contribute so much to their lives.


GUADALUPE NUÑEZ, who works at a nursery that supplies seedlings used in restoration and reforestation projects, offers insights into the local community in Dzilam, a large town on the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Of her hometown, Nuñez says, “It’s a healthy place with nice weather. And if you live near the mangroves, it’s not too hot.”


SANDY MARRUTO loves night-fishing for spider crabs in the mangroves. Used as bait for octopus fishing in and around the coastal Yucatán town of San Felipe, the crabs live within mangrove forests and only come out at night. She fishes with other members of an all-female fishing cooperative. The group is exploring mangrove-dependent tourism opportunities as well.


At the edge of the Instagram-famous Las Coloradas salt evaporation ponds, ALEJANDRA PERAZA (foreground) leads a tour which includes flamingos and other wildlife, and a stop at the beach, to showcase the area’s natural and cultural history. WWF is working with community enterprises like Alejandra’s, training locals to diversify their income through tourism and helping them to be better prepared to withstand the impacts of climate change.


ENRIQUE “KIKE” SANTANA keeps bees for honey in the mangroves near his home in Dzilam. In addition to the four hives he keeps just off the road into town, he’s turned his small backyard into a full-fledged farm overflowing with fruits and vegetables and two wild hives. He dreams, he says, of keeping hives in mangroves on the water so he can harvest honey from his boat.


In San Felipe, local shell artist EVARISTA DEL SOCORRO RAUL ACEVEDO (left) speaks with Cynthia Arrochi (right), a consultant helping WWF identify community-led enterprises that can be integrated into mangrove conservation plans.

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