Beaches, ZOFEMAT and public property

Despite clear regulations established in federal laws, free access to the beaches today is not possible and does not exist

Updating of borders and accesses in exclusive hands of SEMARNAT

“To be enormous and diverse and fixed at the same time, to rid myself of all filth, like you when you throw the useless leftovers of your abyss onto your beaches among the starfish, corks and seaweed.” (Eugenio Montale)


On countless occasions, the issue of public ownership of beaches along the Mexican coastlines has been discussed in detail. This topic is of particular importance to those who live in and who visit BCS tourist areas. It is a daily topic for conversation and very candid when judging from the response provided by the responsible authorities. The most recent example was seen last October when a protest was carried out on El Medano Beach, formerly called “de los Corsarios”. The response and solution was “to update the border lines of the Federal Terrestrial Maritime Zone,” for which no announcement of the start of the process has been made to date.

We set out to discover the process that must be carried out for the updating of the borders of the federal maritime land areas. The authorities and experts in the matter assert that it is pertinent with the existence of the natural movement of sands derived from the tides. However, the office in charge, the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, has not taken any concrete action, or given any information on this, neither to the community in general, nor to the concession holders in these areas.

On that note it is necessary to specify that on El Medano Beach the majority, if not 100%, of its surface area is granted as concession to individuals, in accordance with the General Law of National Property and Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection. Although there are no defined concessions on other beaches, the latter does not imply that they do not exist, nor that they are excluded from the laws (rights and obligations) of users and authorities.

According to the respective legislation, the border lines of federal maritime land areas on beaches are marked from the highest tide in normal times (without the presence of weather-related events that temporarily affect it). From that point they measure 20 meters inland, and this is the area that can be granted as a concession, but never privatized.

Without going too far, the Regulations for the Use and Enjoyment of the Territorial Sea, Navigable Waterways, Beaches, Federal Maritime Land Areas and Lands recovered from the Sea, in Chapter II, Section I, state in article 7: The beaches and the federal maritime land zones may be enjoyed by any person with no limitations and no restrictions other than: time scheduled for the use of motor vehicles for cleaning and/or other needs, as determined by SEMARNAT; in addition, the construction and installation of elements and projects that impede the free transit of these areas are prohibited, except for those approved by the Secretariat in accordance with the standards for urban development and architectural projects and those provided for in the General Law on Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection; and any act or action that results in pollution. The 8th article refers to the sanctions for violating the limitations, restrictions and prohibitions indicated in the previous article, without prejudice to the sanctions established by other legal regulations of federal, state, and municipal character.

To date, SEMARNAT has not responded to my request for information with a clear answer. The concession holders were gathered to a meeting last October to update the border lines of each concession, but not for the beaches that have not been concessioned out, for which we requested information on the timeline for the completion of the updates, giving them the three business days required in their email. We have not received a response. Besides that, the concession holders have not been notified of any action. The ZOFEMAT municipal office, the CONANP, which has jurisdiction for the area, has not been convened to advance the work. Such an action would have benefits, both for collection of fees for concessions in process, or duplicates and even for some other phony ones, not to mention for the violations of the regulations due to the impossibility for access by residents or visitors to these other beaches of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez where the neighboring owners do not respect Article 17 of the regulation of the federal laws which alludes to the requirement for easements to provide free access ways.

According to what the laws indicate, the measurement must be made using the mean of the high water mark over a year in normal times. Concession holders on El Medano Beach do not remember when the last update on these border lines was made. As I said at the beginning…

“We all ask for the law to be applied, and we all try to evade compliance.” (Anonymous)

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