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Organizations come out in defense of the Veracruz Reef System
Technical and legal arguments are submitted in support of a lawsuit against modifying the boundaries of the Veracruz Reef System National Park in eastern Mexico, a site protected by international obligations to preserve the natural barrier against storms and hurricanes.
Veracruz, Mexico. Six civil society organizations have submitted to a Mexican court an amicus curiae brief containing legal and technical arguments that strengthen arguments in a lawsuit against a government decree to modify and reduce the boundaries of the Veracruz Reef System National Park. The proposed modification puts conservation of this internationally important wetland at stake.
The organizations submitted the friend of the court brief to the Third Tribunal of the District of Veracruz on April 25. They are the Interamerican Association of Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), the Strategic Human Rights Litigation Center (Litiga OLE), Pathways and Encounters for Sustainable Development (SENDAS), Pobladores A.C. and the Veracruz Assembly of Environmental Initiatives and Defense (LAVIDA).
The Veracruz Reef System in eastern Mexico was declared a natural protected area in 1992 to safeguard its diversity of species and a rational use of its resources, and to encourage research into the ecosystem and its balance. In 2004, the Veracruz Reef System was included as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty to protect wetlands.
The amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief highlights the importance of the reef system for Mexico and the region. “Coral reefs are natural barriers against large waves and storms like Hurricane Karl, which hit Veracruz in 1992,” said Sandra Moguel, a legal advisor to AIDA. “Reefs also provide abundant fishing and valuable information for medical research. They’re great spots for recreation and they help to sustain marine life.”
The legal brief also argues that the decree, from Mexico’s National Commission on Protected Areas (CONANP), threatens regional biodiversity, violates the human right to a healthy environment, and breaches Mexico’s international obligations to protect this ecosystem.
“The local population is more exposed to suffer the impacts of hurricanes and other climate phenomena, because the decree removes the Punta Gorda and Bahía de Vergara reefs from the national park,” said Xavier Martínez Esponda, regional director of CEMDA for the Gulf of Mexico.
The organizations’ brief explains how CONANP’s decree infringes specific national laws and international treaties. For example, the Organization of American States’ Convention on Nature Protection and Wild Life Preservation in the Western Hemisphere states that natural park limits can only be modified by legislative authorities. CONANP is not such an authority.
The decree also violates the Ramsar Convention, given that the modification of the national park’s defined boundaries did not follow the procedures established by that intergovernmental treaty for the protection of wetlands of international importance.
The brief concludes by making it clear that CONANP’s decree is a regressive measure that erases the benefits of environmental protection attained with the creation of the protected area in 1992. “Setbacks like this can cause irreparable damage,” said Moguel.