* * * Cozumel Closes Marine Park Southern Portion * * *
The southern part of Cozumel Marine Park will be closed beginning October 7 until at least January, seriously limiting where dive boats can go. If you’re thinking about a trip to Cozumel, you may wish to reconsider. If you already have plans, you may wish to contact your dive operator to see how the closures will affect your diving.
The Marine Park includes the southwest quadrant of the island’s coast. The harder-to-reach northern and eastern sites will still be open, but, because of strong currents, only experienced divers prepared to make what can be lengthy and arduous boat journeys in rough water should consider diving these sites. These include the sites from El Mirador on the more exposed east coast, to Baja de Molas at the most northerly point.
The areas where most diving in Cozumel occurs -- from Palancar Gardens (on Cozumel’s southwest quadrant) to Maracaibo, and Playa Bosh in the extreme south (including dive sites Columbia, Punta Sur, and El Cielo) will be closed so government scientists may investigate the causes of ‘white syndrome’ affecting hard corals there and gauge the amounts and effects of pollution discharged by the large hotels that border the marine park.
Local dive operators say popular sites that can still be accessed by dive boats include Barracuda Reef on the extreme northwest coast, the wreck of the C-52, Tormentos Reef, San Francisco Reef, Santa Rosa, El Cedral, and Punta Delila on the west coast.
White syndrome starts with the coral showing well-defined areas of whitening, which then expand and, apparently spread to all other coral colonies by contact, mainly through divers touching infected coral during dives. Otherwise known as stony coral tissue loss disease, it’s affecting reefs in Florida too.