Chinese Dragon Mart Cancun Will Affect Puerto Morelos Marine Park

February 21, 2013

Chinese Dragon Mart Cancún Will Affect Puerto Morelos Marine Park

Earlier last year Ocean Futures Society took a stand against the development of the Cabo Pulmo marine reserve in Baja California, Sur. Much to everyone’s relief, the project was placed on hold and Cabo Pulmo’s coral reef can rest easy. However, I am disheartened to report to you a new attack upon the beautiful and unique landscape of México, this time in the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Situated in the state of Quintana Roo and 36 miles from Cancún, is the historical fishing village of Puerto Morelos. It is known not only for being bordered by fragile mangroves, jungle, and beautiful beaches, but also its close proximity to the world’s second largest barrier reef system: the Mesoamerican. A mere 500 meters from shore lies a reef that is home to such protected and endangered species as the loggerhead, green, and hawksbill sea turtles, as well as elkhorn and staghorn corals. A habitat for over 2,500 marine species, including about 500 species of multicolored tropical fish, it is no wonder that the people of Puerto Morelos have strived to protect their homeland through the establishment of Puerto Morelos National Marine Park.

Dragon Mart

Thus, it has deeply saddened me to learn that this beautiful park is being threatened by a looming development adjacent to Puerto Morelos: the megaproject Chinese Dragon Mart Cancún. This huge exposition center would include more than 3,000 storefronts and be a retail hub for Chinese products. In addition to the center itself, 722 houses for an estimated 2,500 Chinese families would need to be built as well. The center is to be built on 557 hectares, 418 of which would be on a nature reserve. If such a project were to go through it could have incredibly damaging consequences on the ecology of the surrounding area. Already, forest has been cut down without permission from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in the vicinity of Puerto Morelos to make way for the commercial complex with an estimated 192 hectares to be developed. The small port in Puerto Morelos will receive 140 shipping containers a day in the first stage of building, and over 400 shipping containers each day in full operation. It is a concern to many that to accommodate a shipping influx of this magnitude would mean possible dredging of the seabed near the National Marine Park to make room for incoming ships. Additionally, it should be taken into account that the mobilization of such a project would require the building of more roads, storage, cargo warehouses, and general infrastructure to support such an endeavor.

The potential destruction that such a project could levy against the fragile ecology of the Puerto Morelos National Marine Park should be enough garner serious reconsideration of the development. It is important that a stand is taken against the building of Dragon Mart Cancún, not only for the environment and animals affected, but for the people who call Puerto Morelos and its surrounding waters their home.

We know development is unavoidable; but we also know a successful development project revolving around sustainable design, construction and operation is growing at a phenomenal rate. We need to encourage the community to embrace green building standard practices amongst building designers, product manufacturers and suppliers. The fragility of the local environment is ecologically worth more than any development project. The developers need to understand that sustainable design is not only good for the environment and community, but will also will save you or make you money. We are confident that in the spirit of New Year, and above all respect for future generations, the state government and its various departments- as the guardians of the heritage of the state, will act decisively to monitor and protect the natural resources that sustain the life of Quintana Roo.

It’s encouraging to read about the recent protest of 100 community members and environmental activities protesting against Dragon Mart. Its time to gather international support against this project and demonstrate we are one strong voice, supporting the protection of our water planet.

Warm Regards,


Jean-Michel Cousteau

Photograph: A considerable amount of land has already been cleared despite not having final authorization from SEMARNAT, the Mexican Secretary of the Environment. A line of trees facing the highway have been left standing so as to block the view of the devastation. Photo © Rodrigo Elizarrarás