We’ve given a taste of the fish and folk, now we’ll take a look at some of the ecological problems facing the flats of Xcalak.

As we headed out to fish each morning, we motored our way alongside the reef to a channel that led into the bay. The channel was obviously manmade: straight, of uniform width, not winding or natural. At the end of the channel was a barge crewed by uniformed workers. They were there every day; but we never saw them doing much work.

We were told that they had been dredging the channel for years. The goal was to dig deep enough to allow a cruise ship through; however, after digging four feet or so, they hit impenetrable rock. So there they were, with a channel deep enough for a panga (a small, open outboard fishing boat), but not much else. Their ultimate goal is to dig a channel all the way across the bay.

Elsewhere in the bay, about six miles north of the channel, is another eyesore: a massive concrete dock large enough for a cruise ship. There is no road to it, and it’s never been used. But there it is, sticking out into the bay, perched on the flats. We’re told that this structure, like the channel, is another piece of a grand plan to build a cruise ship route from Xcalak to Chetemal.

If the cruise ship channel is eventually built, it will destroy the fragile flats fishery. The damage done by the construction process alone would alter fish migrations and destroy habitat to the point of collapse.

Some locals insisted the channel to Chetemal would never happen, that it’s an impossible feat of engineering. That may be true. It may just be a politically-motivated jobs program, or symbolic project dedicated to progress or economic development. However, the Mexican government may continue to flow money into a project that will continue to damage the fishery. They’ve built a dock. They’ve dredged a channel. What’s next? We’re keeping an eye on it, and we’ll keep you posted.

August 06, 2021 — Captains & Cowboys