|This is a filched review of the environmental problems in Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas. More detailed information
is available at the Defendors of Los Tuxtlas site: DEMATAC.
Parkswatch.org published this synopsis of the ecological problems of Los Tuxtlas in 2002:
Almost nothing has changes as of March 2007. Now make that 2009!
Livestock, primarily cattle, is one of the main activities in the region and is one of the principal causes of the
loss of forest cover in Los Tuxtlas. The ecological deterioration observed in the region is mainly due to
misguided policies that promote poorly planned agricultural development. The continuous replacement of
subsistence agriculture for livestock has produced the loss of self-sufficiency in basic products as well as
the substitution of traditional technologies and diversified strategies, which are more appropriate for the
conditions of the humid tropics.
Throughout the country, the Program for Support of the Farmer (PROCAMPO), which promotes the production
of basic grains, primarily corn, has been responsible for the disappearance of large areas of forests of an
undetermined extent. The population primarily cultivates corn practicing slash and burn agriculture. In this
system the use of fire is essential, occasionally causing forest fires. Agriculture in the region produces poor
yields due to the low fertility of the soil. Erosion and the loss of soil are common threats for the land.
Sugarcane plantations have a strong impact on the environment. Impacts include intense and frequent use of
agrochemicals that affect the health of the farmers and the environment, the burning of cane prior to cutting,
the deterioration of soils due to burning organic residues, and the contamination of water due to discharge of
residual water from the sugar factories.
From an environmental perspective, the cultivation of tobacco that takes place in the reserve has a great
impact that is primarily due to the quantity of mangrove wood necessary to construct new stockrooms and to
dry tobacco leaves.
The biosphere reserve is under intense pressure from the great number of inhabitants of the region. The total
population of the eight municipalities of the region is 335,315 inhabitants. Within the boundaries of the
municipalities of Mecayapan, Soteapan, and Pajapan in the Sierra Santa Marta have the highest rates of
population growth in the region with an average rate of 4.09% for the three municipalities, in contrast with the
average rate of 2.08% for the region.
The indiscriminate hunting and the fragmentation of the original vegetation of the region are factors that lead to
local extinction of several large mammals These species extinctions occurred because the region is only
protected in any real sense within the zone of the reserve established by UNAM in 1967. The other areas,
such as the Sierra Santa Marta and the San Martín Volcano, never achieved active protection of their areas
(PSSM 1996). Unfortunately, even in places currently well protected such as the Station of the UNAM, illegal
practices such as hunting and the extraction of wildlife occur due to the lack of action and inspection on the
part of PROFEPA.
Deforestation in Los Tuxtlas is a severe threat. The current forest cover has been reduced to natural
vegetation patches. The rate of deforestation during the early 1990s was 4.3%, resulting in several zones
within the protected area being left without buffer zones since the pastures are already in direct contact with
the borders of the reserve (Dirzo & García 1992).
The pollution of bodies of water, such as Lake Catemaco, the Sontecomapan Lagoon and the water table in
the region is caused by the discharge of residual waters from the sugarcane factories, the use of
agrochemicals for agriculture, and the cultivation of tobacco. Therefore, when it rains, water falls on bare
soils, which erode and contaminate the water.
Currently fishing is occurring on bodies of water within the reserve such as the Sontecomapan Lagoon and
Ostion Lagoon as well as a significant number of small lakes and a great number of rivers and streams. Until
now there has been no regulation of this activity, and the number of people that make their living from fishing is
unknown. Data from the fishing administration of the delegation of SEMARNAP (1999) in the state of Veracruz
determined that at least 1,419 people fish both in the ocean and in the continental waters. Informal information
suggests that this number could be double the expected value. Other information for the years 1995 and 1996
states that within the region of Los Tuxtlas, the municipalities of Catemaco and San Andrés Tuxtla contributed
86% and 70%, respectively, to total fishing production, which gives an idea of the level of extraction within
The over exploitation of the rivers has been very intense over the years and in several cases has caused a
reduction in the productivity, particularly aquatic food with commercial value such as shrimp and crawfish. In
several cases, extraction has been carried out with illegal techniques such as poisoning with insecticides and
herbicides, which has in turn caused the disappearance of species.
Lack of personnel and infrastructure
Without a doubt, the lack of personnel for the reserve's administration creates a situation where the
necessary time and human resources to monitor and protect the natural resources do not exist. Only five
people are employed for the administration, management, and protection of the reserve. Currently, the
administration of the reserve has an office in the city of Catemaco, vehicles, and computer equipment;
however, they lack field stations that would permit them better logistical access to confront the multiple threats
to the protected area.