Is Mexico’s Underwater Museum Diverting Attention from Bigger Environmental Issues?
The statues, the house, and the lobster are all part of the Underwater Museum of Art, a project intended to divert scuba divers from the overused reefs in the national park Costa Occidental Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún y Punta Nizúc.
And though it’s not hurting the reef, they fear the museum may distract from more important threats to reef health such as coastal development and inadequate water treatment.
Closing the reefs would hurt business, so divers and park managers worked together to find a compromise.
In 2009, the diving community and the protected areas commission decided to create an underwater museum.
The museum provides a habitat for new coral colonies — coral polyps can attach to the hard surface of the statutes — but at the same time, fleshy algae has moved in to the noses, ears, and mouths of the statues.
Jaime Gonzalez Cano, former director of the national park where the museum is located and one of its founders, acknowledges the threat of water pollution, but says scientists underestimate the impact scuba divers have on the reef.
In comparison, the Costa Occidental Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún y Punta Nizúc national park in Cancún covers about 33 square miles — less than 1 percent of the size of the Cairns planning area on the Great Barrier Reef — and receives about 750,000 people per year.
He isn’t the only one who thinks divers have a negative impact on coral reefs.
Part of the problem in Cancún is that managers of protected areas don’t have the power or resources to tackle the most important threats to the reef.
Gonzalez Cano said he didn’t have the power to change public policy regarding waste-water treatment.
Now may be your last chance to see the Great Barrier Reef
Now may be your last chance to see the Great Barrier Reef.
For the first time, the bleaching event immediately followed another the year before—which was the bleaching ever recorded on the reef.
Bleached corals are not necessarily dead, but the one-two punch of consecutive bleaching events all but seals a deathly fate for large swaths of the reef.
Hughes and his team conducted the aerial survey that confirmed both 2016 and 2017 bleaching events.
Rising sea temperatures driven by global warming are primarily to blame for the widespread and rapid degradation of the reef.
Four mass bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef have now occurred since just 1998; none had ever been recorded before that year.
Corals bleach when the water warms to a temperature above what they can tolerate.
If the warm temperatures persist, the chance of recovery goes down.
And to have a greater chance at recovery, bleached reef must be connected with healthy reef, so the reef can repopulate with new coral polyps.
Jon Brodie, a scientist who has on water quality issues affecting reefs, told the Guardian the Great Barrier Reef is now in a “terminal stage.” “We’ve given up.