With the help of 40 high-energy high school students, CORAL's Cozumel team and staff from the National Commission of Protected Areas held a mangrove cleanup in April on the north side of the island. The Cozumel mangrove is part of a larger area that was declared a natural protected area by the Mexican government in September 2012. Mangroves are important to coral reefs as places where juvenile reef fish can grow, making for healthier and more robust coral reef fish communities. Once the fish grow large enough in the mangrove, they make their way to the reef.
After giving a talk about the ecology of mangroves and how to identify different types of mangrove plants, the organizers split participants into groups to collect plastic, glass, and Styrofoam debris. Approximately 600 pounds of garbage were removed from the mangroves and adjacent brackish water lagoon. "The cleanup was an important step in raising awareness about mangroves and their relationship to coral reefs," says CORAL Field Representative Adriana Gonzalez. "And all of the students want to come back and help again."