Biodiversity Research Institute
Biodiversity Research Institute
Show menu Hide menu
Tropical Program: Research in México
Tropical Program: Research in México

This pilot project in México is BRI's first research study conducted in alignment with our Memorandum of Understanding (a technical-scientific agreement) with México’s federal environmental agency, the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC). Studies are scheduled to continue in 2015.

Limpia Guerrero 2013 Project Report


Related Links:

National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC)

Limpia Guerrero 2013: A Pilot Study of Environmental Contaminants in México

In the fall of 2013, BRI partnered with Sustenta Soluciones S.A. de C.V. (headquartered in México City, México) to conduct a three-week pilot environmental study along a 200-km stretch of Pacific coastline in the State of Guerrero, including several high-density tourist sites. The focus was on three common pollutants often used as reliable predictors of ecological toxicity: plastics, mercury, and petroleum (PAHs). The project was a component of a much larger conservation campaign called “Limpia Guerrero 2013” funded by the State Government of Guerrero. The results from this pilot study will help guide BRI’s future work in the region.

Lead Investigator: H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D.

Contributing BRI Staff: Oksana Lane, Dustin Meattey, Kevin Regan



Located on the Pacific Ocean in southwestern México, Guerrero is one of 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federal entities of México. Tourism is the principal economic factor of Guerrero, though agricultural production, logging, fishing, and mining are locally important. Most of the state is mountainous with flat areas limited to small mesas and its 500-km long coastline. The climate is dominated by its rainy tropical areas along the coast and its rainy temperate areas in the sierras. Except for tropical storms and cyclones, most of the rainfall in Guerrero is produced by evaporation from the Pacific Ocean. 

Below is a summary of BRI's pilot study.

Download the full report here.



What We Studied

The environmental effects of marine debris are wide-ranging and can be both direct (e.g., ingestion or entanglement) and indirect (e.g., ecosystem alteration or introduction of invasive species). For our study, we used pilot beach surveys to determine the amount and types of marine debris, including plastics, on a number of beaches—some highly urbanized, some remote—in the State of Guerrero. The beach surveys during this project yielded valuable, but preliminary, information about the standing stock of plastics and other surface litter along the coastline of Guerrero.

Two other beach contaminants were studied: mercury (Hg) and petroleum (PAHs). These common toxic pollutants often accumulate in aquatic organisms and can be used as reliable predictors of ecological toxicity in the environment, particularly in urbanized settings. Anthropogenic mercury in both aquatic and terrestrial systems is assumed generally to come from atmospheric fallout, sometimes traveling at great distances from its initial sources.


Scientific Findings

BRI’s research found mercury levels in wildlife and edible fish above the guidelines considered safe for humans; one type of PAH cited by the U.S. EPA as a hazardous substance was found in 10 out of 26 blood samples taken from captured wildlife. Further, more than 70 percent of women sampled (all of reproductive age) exceeded the known lowest observed adverse effect level. High enough for human and ecological health concerns, these preliminary findings warrant more research on marine debris and associated contaminants.


Significance to Policy

As a result of this study, BRI offered policy recommendations to the State Government of Guerrero:

  • Improve infrastructures throughout the coastal area for gathering and recycling debris
  • Work with the regional tourism industry to establish policies against single-use plastic products
  • Promote and enhance proper land-based waste management including landfills and sewage treatment facilities
  • Work to reduce the generation of marine litter from merchant ships, offshore platforms, fishing vessels, and pleasure crafts
  • Issue public alerts to avoid the consumption of fish with high mercury levels

Fish and Wildlife

  • Train Mexican scientists in wildlife capture and sampling techniques
  • Enforce beach regulations to protect nesting sea turtles and foraging shorebirds
  • Monitor and strictly manage the degree of gill-netting in the Tres Palos Lagoon outside Acapulco
  • Expand contaminant analyses of fish and wildlife to include stable isotope analysis
  • Conduct further scientific investigations focused on fish-eating wildlife and other taxa to assess the risks from exposure to mercury and other heavy metals in the regional environment


  • Conduct a biological inventory and an economic assessment on tourism
  • Enforce existing legislation to protect the waterways throughout the State of Guerrero from all illegal encroachments
  • Invest in long-term conservation education to protect the natural resources of Guerrero
  • Establish ecotourism packages in partnership with local and regional governments, businesses, NGOs, and educational institutions
  • Promote regular beach cleanup operations and campaigns throughout the region



BRI's pilot study was a component of a much larger campaign called Limpia Mahahual, a Guerrerense initiative based on public education and communication to clean beaches, raise environmental awareness, and engage stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to find a sustainable solution to coastline pollutants in Guerrero.


Photo Credits: Header photo: Trash collected on Yucatan beaches © Alfredo Blasquez- Sustenta
Biodiversity Research Institute