Calling on Mexico’s Supreme Court to Protect the Veracruz Reef

Image from CEMDA’s documentary, The Battle for Veracruz Reefs.

Mexico’s Veracruz Reef System, a national park and RAMSAR site in the Gulf of Mexico, has suffered because of the expansion of the Veracruz Port. ELAW has joined partners at the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) to help protect and restore this critical ecosystem.
The reef contributes to a thriving, centuries-old fishing tradition in the Veracruz region and protects the shoreline from erosion and strong “norte” wind/wave events. “It serves as a nursery and feeding ground for several commercial species that support our local fishing industry,” says Xavier Martinez, CEMDA Technical Operative Director.

The port expansion includes dredging to nearly twice the depth of the original port, adding two massive breakwaters, and constructing berths in Vergara Bay, the Bay adjacent to the original port.
In 2016, residents of Medellín-Boca del Río filed suit, alleging that expansion of the Port of Veracruz would cause irreversible impacts on local reefs. The lawsuit revealed that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed port expansion was fragmented and failed to take into account the impact on all reefs, including recently discovered reefs.

ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Heidi Weiskel reviewed the 26 separate project proposals and authorizations tied to the port expansion, highlighting in her Expert Report for the Court that the proponents had failed to address the substantial cumulative impacts on surrounding reefs, rivers, and coastal dunes, as well as air and water quality. She confirmed her findings with a trip to Veracruz to survey the project area. To-date, the proponents still have not acknowledged or assessed the cumulative impacts, despite a legal requirement to do so. This failure has resulted in irreversible harm to the coral reefs, coast, and people of Veracruz.
On January 4, ELAW presented an amicus curiae brief that encourages Mexico’s Supreme Court to recognize broad standing to guarantee protection of constitutional rights and access to justice in environmental matters in Mexico.
Many countries around the world recognize broad standing through legislation and judicial decisions, so that any person or civil society organization can take legal action to protect the environment. ELAW presented information on how courts in other countries have addressed standing. Recognizing broad standing will help protect the right to a healthy environment in Mexico.
“Our Veracruz culture, including our traditions and gastronomy, would be impossible without the reefs,” says Xavier. “We are calling on the Supreme Court to revoke authorization for the expansion project and guarantee the human right to a healthy environment by protecting our reef.”
For more information, see:
CEMDA. January 5, 2022
Calling on the Supreme Court to protect the Veracruz reef

CEMDA. May 26, 2021
The Battle for Veracruz Reef

Alejandra Serrano
Attorney on contract
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide