Victory at Arrecife Alacranes: Reef excluded from oil auction

Scorpion Reef is a protected reserve, but is thought to be near vast oil reserves. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Scorpion Reef is a protected reserve, but is thought to be near vast oil reserves. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Much to the relief of environmentalists and fishermen, a bid that had opened the possibility of oil exploration off Progreso has been modified to exclude the Yucatán Platform.

The National Hydrocarbons Commission unanimously agreed to exclude a site near the Arrecife Alacranes, a fragile reef 188 kilometers off the coast, from an auction inviting private companies to explore the Gulf for oil.

This is a victory for fishing villages along the Yucatecan coast, where leaders had vowed a fight. Industrializing the Gulf of Mexico would further reduce fishing stock, which thousands of families depend on for income, they said.

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It is also good news for Arrecife Alacranes, known in English as Scorpion Reef, which is a fragile ecosystem that happens to be a few kilometers from the oil-rich Yucatán Platform.

An oil exploration drilling rig sits in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Getty

The Secretary of Energy had requested the move in a letter dated Sept. 27. The bid is part of a large auction in January, offering access to 30 oil fields across the Gulf of Mexico.

For decades, protecting the reef has been a battle because experts are sure that the area is rich in oil.

Pemex had once planned 15 exploratory wells at Los Alacranes, whose coral reef has been designated a national park and is part of the United Nations Biosphere Reserve.

Yucatán’s oil reserves are tied to the Chicxulub crater, which is thought to have helped the formation of fossils off the peninsula.

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Yucatán Expat Life treatment of a Diario de Yucatán graphic

The reef surrounds a group of five small coraline islands, four of which are uninhabited. Only Isla Perez has people: a lighthouse keeper, a small Mexican Navy platoon and scientists and fishermen who come and go.

Presidents of the nautical committees of Progreso, Chelem, Chicxulub and Chuburná Puerto, Dzilam de Bravo, Yobaín, Chabihau, Telchac Puerto, San Crisanto, San Felipe, El Cuyo, Sisal, Celestún, Las Coloradas and San Felipe, had put pressure on the state government to intervene.

José Luis Carrillo Galaz, President of the Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of the Center and Poniente del Estado, hailed the decision.

And the leader of the “Salvemos Alacranes” movement, Felipe de Jesús Pech González, rejoiced.

“The battle is won, because the main thing was to protect the reef,” he said. “It was like a battle of David against Goliath.”

With information from Diario de Yucatán, Desde el Balcón

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