National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve Becomes Newest Fully Protected Marine Area in Mexico

The fully protected Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve shelters an incredible diversity of life including rocky reefs and hard corals. Photo Credit: Octavio Aburto

The full protection will cover an area of 6,413 square kilometers 

August 26, 2021—The Mexican government has committed to creating a new fully protected marine area, by banning all extractive activities within the perimeter of the Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is now deemed a no-take area, which does not permit fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities surrounding the biosphere reserve area, making it a fully protected area. Covering 6,413 square kilometers—an area over four times the size of Mexico City—this increases the National Geographic Pristine Seas project’s marine protected area count to 24, totalling over 6.5M square kilometers.

The Islas Marías is a Mexican archipelago of four volcanic islands, located in an area between the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. Uninhabited except for a former penal colony, this unique archipelago is flush with rich nutrients allowing marine life and endemic species to thrive among the rocky reefs and hard corals. In 2000, the Mexican government declared the Archipelago a Biosphere Reserve, but allowed some fishing activities in the area. The latest commitment by the government designates the area as fully protected, completely banning extractive activities.

“This newly protected area is an opportunity to secure the biodiversity of a pristine ecosystem and properly ensure its survival,”  said Octavio Aburto, National Geographic Explorer and co-founder of Mares Mexicanos.

Studies conducted by the Society’s partners confirmed that the Islas Marías archipelago contains—together with the reefs in Cabo Pulmo—some of the few remaining healthy reefs in any of Mexico’s marine protected areas in the Gulf of California. 

National Geographic Pristine Seas supported this effort through grant funding and the deployment of the National Geographic Society’s deep-sea camera system 

“Thanks to our partners Mares Mexicanos and their leadership, we were able to support the creation of this new marine reserve and to continue making progress towards our goal of protecting 30 percent of our ocean by 2030,” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and founder of Pristine Seas.  

About National Geographic Pristine Seas

National Geographic Pristine Seas is an exploration, research and media project founded and led by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The Pristine Seas team is comprised of determined scientists, policy experts and filmmakers who work to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come. Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 24 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers. Learn more at

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.