The city of Cancun was founded about 40 years ago. Since its beginnings, the local people and a few lucky tourists have witnessed how the local blue crabs migrate to the sea. Every year, between the months of September and October, especially when there's a full moon, these blue crustaceans emerge from their hiding spots in the mangrove forests of the Nichupte Lagoon and surrounding areas, ready to make a dangerous trip towards the ocean to lay their eggs.
With thousands of years of experience moving solely on instinct, the crabs are unaware that the area they have to cross has been used by humans to create paved roads. The Hotel Zone runs all along a 13-maile strip that divides the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean from Nichupte Lagoon. The famous Kukulcan Avenue is the main artery here, allowing easy flow of traffic and tourists from one end to another of the small island uniting the mainland via the Calinda and Nizuc bridges.
Cancun's Hotel Zone has become an obstacle of epic proportions for these small crabs. During their determined march toward the sea, they're often crushed along the way. Many fear that this could create a terrible impact on the reproduction and the genetic diversity of these crustaceans, since this migration is done for mating purposes. However, the people of Cancun are prepared for these events.
Cancun locals understand the impact that the natural resources found in the mangrove and the ocean have on the environment and on tourism. Keeping this in mind, hundreds of families show up during the crabs' migration days to help them make it to the ocean. You may be asking how they accomplish this. The answer is simply with the desire to help and a bit of creativity.
You can see people of all ages and social classes using buckets, shovels, bags, plastic boxes and any other container to get the crabs safely and soundly out to the beach. Thousands of crabs in Cancun are saved every year thanks to this effort by the local people.
The Blue Crab Protection Campaign was created in 1991 with the help of the Ecology Board, made up of a team of volunteers that stays informed on the movements of these animals. As the full moon nights in September and October grow nearer, the team sends out announcements inviting locals to participate and join the forces to save these beautiful creatures.
The number of crabs that heads out to complete the journey of reproduction is linked not only to the full moon, but also to the amount of rainfall registered during summer months. For example, in 2009 the number of crabs was remarkably low due to the lack of rain, which greatly alarmed the protection campaign. On the other hand, in June 2010 there was an early migration due to the immense amount of rain left behind by Tropical Storm Alex as it passed through Mexico. The crabs had never left their nests so early, but the high water level made it necessary for them to abandon their homes and begin their search for the sea. Environmental authorities were caught off guard.
The campaign's activities are especially popular among families with kids, allowing them to grow up learning how to actively protect their environment. Children and adults alike can be seen at the registration table, wearing gardening gloves to avoid being pinched by the not-so-innocent crab claws. White or light-colored clothing is recommended for volunteers, along with a flashlight. The three main areas for helping the local crabs are Punta Nizuc, Playa del Nino and Playa las Perlas.
If you're lucky enough to visit the beautiful destination of Cancun during this time around full moon, make sure to look into the meeting times for the Blue Crab Protection Campaign ("Campana de Proteccion del Cangrejo Azul") in the Hotel Zone. Form a part of this species' fight for survival and bring home the incredible memories of this environmental experience in Cancun.