The state of Quintana Roo has 11 natural protected areas (66% are federal, 30% state, and the remaining 4% are private reserves). Together, the natural protected areas represent 25.3% of the state's surface area under some form of protection, a value that does not include marine areas. Natural protected areas (NPAs) are terrestrial or aquatic portions whose biodiversity has not been essentially altered and are subject to special protection regimes. In March 1988, the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection came into force, which legally establishes the categories of national protected areas, their declarations, and regulations. The modification of this law in 2007 defined the types and characteristics of NPAs under federal, state, or municipal jurisdiction.
As NPAs with state jurisdiction, in the northeastern part bordering the municipality of Isla Mujeres are located the Natural Protected Areas called "Refugio de Flora y Fauna Laguna Manatí", as well as the "Refugio Estatal de Flora y Fauna Sistema Lagunar Chacmochuch". These two areas were decreed as ecological conservation zones in 1999; they cover 202.99 ha and 1,914.52 ha, respectively. There are pollution problems and pressure from tourism activities and surrounding urban land uses. In 1995, Kabah Park was declared an ANP with the category of an urban park with an area of 41.48 ha.
The Manglares de Nichupté NPA is under federal jurisdiction. This was decreed in 2008, with the category of flora and fauna protection area and has an area of 4,257 ha. The lagoon system is made up of four lagoons (Laguna Nichupté, Del Amor, Río Inglés and Bojórquez). It presents a contamination problem, the eutrophication of the lagoon system, which is the enrichment of the waters with nutrients at such a rate that it cannot be compensated by its definitive elimination by mineralization so that the excess of organic matter produced makes the oxygen in the deep waters diminish enormously; this is produced to the artificial obstruction that was made to unify the hotel zone of Cancun, where the water exits of the lagoons were covered reducing the points of unclogging of this, making slow the circulation of water.
Among the main limitations for PNAs are the low sanctioning of environmental crimes; the lack of harmonization of policies, since there is no close link between federal PNAs and the State, Municipal, and Population Center Development Programs; navigation schemes require greater control.
Two conservation zones are located at the two northern and southern ends of the Hotel Zone area. The natural reef zone of the West Coast National Park of Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc, which in turn is part of the barrier reef called the "Great Western Atlantic Reef Belt", which belongs to the "Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System". In the area of Punta Cancun diving is practiced, which the depth for these dives is varied, with a minimum of 8m, having an average of 17m in general and a maximum of 25m. The currents are also varied, generally finding stronger currents at greater depths, making diving activity for intermediate or advanced divers.
The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), commonly referred to as the "RAMSAR Convention", is an intergovernmental treaty that brings together the commitment of its members to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the wise and sustainable use of all wetlands in their territory. Unlike other international environmental conventions, RAMSAR is not affiliated with the United Nations system of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, but it operates closely with the other conventions of that system and is a full partner in the group of biodiversity-related agreements.
In the case of Mexico, which has been an active member since November 4, 1986, it has a total of 129 sites registered, with a total area of 8,376,271 hectares. In Quintana Roo there are 13 RAMSAR sites, that is, 10% of those in the country. All but one of these sites are under a Natural Protected Area system, two of which are state and the rest are federal. The total area of RAMSAR sites in the state is 1,171,114 hectares or 14% of the country's total. RAMSAR sites in the municipality of Benito Juárez, where Cancun is located, are Arrecife de Puerto Morelos National Park with an area of 9,066 hectares, date of designation February 2, 2004, and Manglares de Nichupté with an area of 4,257 hectares, date of designation February 2, 2008.