The beaches within the environmental reserve of Ría Lagartos were declared a Natural Protected Area in the category of Sea Turtle Sanctuary by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), in order to protect their nesting and reproduction areas.
In the case of Yucatán, it will be called Playa Ría Lagartos and covers an area of 827.359 hectares, which includes the municipalities of Tizimín, Río Lagartos and San Felipe, located in the northeastern part of the state.
It should be noted that although they were part of the Ría Lagartos Reserve, these beaches were not legally protected to prevent turtle predation and exploitation.
The agency explained that sea turtle nesting beaches are the most important sites in their life cycle, since they are where they carry out their reproductive phase, when the females come out to deposit their eggs in nests built in the sand for incubation.
If all goes well, in a period of 45 to 60 days the hatchlings are born to go to sea and become part of the new generation of marine chelonians. For this reason, it is important to preserve the conditions of the nesting beaches so that the process is successful.
Sea turtles come to these sanctuaries to nest: olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), green (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys kempii).
In addition, mangrove and dune ecosystems in a good state of conservation are essential to stabilize the coastline and prevent or reduce beach loss, which is why they have been included in the polygons of some of the sanctuaries.
Furthermore, they facilitate water retention and infiltration into the subsoil, which regulates and maintains the area’s temperature, factors that are highly important for the success of chelonian nesting.