Kanan Kay Alliance

For sustainable fishing in southeastern Mexico

The Project

The Kanan Kay Alliance (AKK, acronym in Spanish) is an intersectoral initiative created in 2011 with the original objective of establishing an effective network of Fishing Refuge Zones (FRZ) to protect the waters of the Mexican Caribbean territorial sea. It seeks to strengthen sustainable fishing management to recover the biological richness and productivity of small-scale fisheries in the Yucatan Peninsula.


The Mesoamerican Reef System (MAR) is the most important reef in the western hemisphere; it extends for more than 1,000 km along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. The health of the MAR is critically threatened by overfishing, algal blooms on corals, water pollution, and global warming.

Despite regulatory efforts in the marine-coastal zones of the Yucatan Peninsula, fishery production of some commercially and ecologically valuable species continues to decline significantly. The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) 2022 report reveals that the Reef Health Index (RHI) has fallen again; 44% of sites are in a "Poor" condition, and "Critical" sites have doubled (now 31%) since the last report.

Fish populations are now critically low in all countries except Mexico. Cozumel is the only sub-region with "Very Good" conditions for commercial and herbivorous fish, with grouper and snapper biomass five times the regional average. This site has had the highest percentage of its area fully protected for decades (35%), so these data demonstrate the value of complete protection, particularly when local communities are involved in the management and benefit economically.

The Kanan Kay Alliance seeks to contribute to the consolidation of responsible fisheries management to recover the biological richness and productivity of small-scale fisheries in the Yucatan Peninsula by facilitating collaborative processes and shared actions through FRZ.

FRZs are no-fishing zones that allow the reproduction and recovery of marine species, contributing to conserving marine biodiversity and improving the well-being of the communities that depend on these resources. They are an instrument of the National Fishing Policy, which may well be part of the subzone of a protected natural area.

Its operation is based on protecting critical habitats, especially breeding, feeding, and nursery areas. These actions lead to the "spillover effect," i.e., the repopulation of species of commercial and ecological interest in nearby fishing areas.

The lines of work that guide the actions of the AKK are:

  1. Design and establishment of FRZs: coordinate an effective and legally recognized network of fishing refuges in the territorial waters of the Yucatan Peninsula to generate an increase of at least 30% in the biomass of species of commercial interest within the FRZs.
  2. Legal framework, control, and monitoring: use the regulatory and institutional framework to decree, inspect, and monitor fishing refuges together with fishing cooperatives, as well as to implement the most effective fishery management tools.
  3. Human development: a critical mass of organizations and people sensitized and trained to strengthen fisheries management and marine conservation in the Yucatan Peninsula to contribute to the recovery of the increase of at least 30% of the biomass of species of commercial interest in the refuges.
  4. Socioeconomic development: contribute to the well-being of the fishing communities of the Yucatan Peninsula through the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources and the diversification of economic activities.

Fishing Refuge Zones (FRZ) are no-fishing zones that allow marine species to reproduce and recover.

Learn more about FRZ.


The AKK has promoted the decree of 17 FRZ, protecting more than 18,000 hectares, and has strengthened three communities that have initiated the FRP design process. In addition, it has held 17 General Assemblies and has promoted the joint work of 36 active partners (four soon to be incorporated) to recover small-scale fisheries and conserve habitat, including six fishing cooperatives, two tourism cooperatives, an organized group of fishermen, and a Management Committee. AKK has also achieved an increase of approximately 52% in the biomass of species of commercial interest in the FRZs.

In the first half of 2023, the AKK has maintained its collaborative and educational approach to promote sustainable fisheries management in the region. During this period, the Fishing Exchange 2023 was held, with 76 attendees from 36 institutions. AKK played an active role in the "Fisheries Transition in El Cuyo" project, promoting the creation of FRZ in the area.

Strategic alliances remain fundamental for AKK, with six being established with Impact Blue, Wild Aid, PPD, OCEANA, COBI, and IBANQRRO. In addition, communication has been established with the Eastern Yucatan Federation for future collaborations. The training and empowerment of fishermen were also part of the achievements. Throughout this period, seven workshops were carried out in different communities, strengthening local knowledge. Similarly, the queen conch data poster was designed and distributed to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable fishing and its advantages.

Learn more about the project:


Donor: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

  • Fundación Claudia y Roberto Hernández, A.C.
  • Sureste Sostenible, A.C.
  • The Walton Family Foundation
  • Academia
  • Independent consultants
  • Fishing cooperatives
  • Tourism cooperatives
  • Organized groups of fishermen
  • Governmental institutions
  • Civil society