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 and Gulf of Mexico 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 wealth and productivity of small-scale fisheries in the Yucatan Peninsula by facilitating collaborative processes and shared actions through FRZs. FRZs are areas that contribute to the development of fishing resources since they allow the reproduction and recovery of commercially important fishing species and other marine species, improving the well-being of the communities that depend on these resources and conserving marine biodiversity. Furthermore, they are an instrument of the National Fisheries Policy, which may be part of the subzoning of a protected natural area or be within it.

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 FRZs, protecting more than 18,000 hectares, and has strengthened three communities that have begun the ZRP design process. In addition, it has held 18 general assemblies, it has contributed to the joint work of 38 members, two of them newcomers, to recover small-scale fisheries and conserve the habitat, including six fishing cooperatives, four tourist cooperatives, an organized group of fishermen, and a Management Committee. The AKK has also achieved an increase of approximately 52% in the biomass of species of commercial interest in the FRZs.

In the second half of 2023, the AKK focused its actions on strengthening communities through training and exchanges of experiences. Five trainings and workshops were held, including the first block of the “Human Development” course, designed by the Haciendas del Mundo Maya Foundation and the AKK. There were exchanges of experiences between 20 fishermen from Boca del Álamo, B.C.S., El Cuyo, and María Elena. A work team was consolidated under the leadership of a new general coordinator, two field technicians for Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, and an external consultant. A Coordinating Committee meeting and an Extraordinary General Assembly were held, where the incorporation of two new members was approved. Two newsletters were published, and two consultancies were successfully concluded: the creation of a new FRZ in Yucatán (phase 1) and the AKK communication campaign.
Learn more about the project:


  • The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Fundación Claudia y Roberto Hernández
  • The Walton Family Foundation

  • Sureste Sostenible
  • Academia
  • Independent consultants
  • Fishing cooperatives
  • Tourism cooperatives
  • Organized groups of fishermen
  • Governmental institutions
  • Civil society