Yucatan Dispatch 11 October 27, 2009 from Alacranes, Mexico

It’s hard to imagine a place so beautiful and so bountiful can in reality be suffering

At first glance the reef is swarming with life but with a closer look, there is a lot missing. The swarms we see at first are missing some key species. Unlike the meats we eat that come from land, most of the fish we consume are predators. Think about it when you drop a line into the water in hopes of catching dinner you don’t bait your hook with algae or coral, you bait it with fish. The predators are missing I’ve yet to see a shark. Snapper are around but most of them are small specimens. I’ve seen but a few small grouper. This is the largest reef system in the Gulf of Mexico; it should be central breeding ground for these important species, yet they are either absent or very small. The reasons are obvious, fishing boats dot the horizon tourist season brings crowds of 500 or more people to the island at a time and all the while the reef struggles to maintain its ecosystem. On other photographic expeditions I have visited places that are better protected and places that are quite a bit more remote. The feeling that I’ve always had on those trips is that I was in a place where the scales were precariously balanced even leaning slightly more towards catastrophe. I’ve always fought for these places to maintain their ecosystems that are so vital to the entire oceans health. In the Alacranes we are seeing what happens when those scales are tipped drastically, there is little to no protection. It’s beautiful out here, and it’s not too far gone that it can’t be brought back. Without action now, this place will soon become an ocean desert, and there will be no choice but to stop fishing here because there will be nothing left.