Project: Implementation of the Strategic Action Program of the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem

"Improving water quality, enhancing economic vitality and restoring marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico"

The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth largest body of water in the world and the largest semi-enclosed coastal sea in the Western Atlantic.

1.6 million km2

Approximately 1,500 km 
at its widest point and 
4,384 m at its deepest.

Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, 
and Texas.

Its eastern, northern 
and north-western
shores span 2,700 km and border five U.S. states.

Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan and the northernmost tip of Quintana Roo

Its south-western and southern shores span 2,243 km and border five Mexican states.

Why is the Gulf of Mexico important?

The distinctive geographic and biophysical characteristics of the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem (GoM-LME) make it an important global reservoir of biodiversity and one of the most productive of the 66 LMEs in the world.

The GoM-LME is a major asset to its coastal countries in terms of fisheries and seafood processing, tourism, agriculture, oil infrastructure, trade, and shipping. It provides economic wealth, products, food, services, cultural heritage, and energy directly to the countries that share it and contributes to the oceanic biodiversity as a whole. It supports approximately 55 million people, 40 million in U.S. coastal states, and 15 million in Mexican states.

What are the problems threatening the GoM-LME?

The Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) elaborated in 2011 is the most recent peer-reviewed scientific and technically supported assessment for the GoM-LME. It identifies the priority transboundary issues and determines the baseline for intervention in the region.

Pollution including eutrophication and harmful algal blooms

Total nitrogen load delivered from river basins into coastal areas doubled during the 20th century. The total phosphorus load also increased significantly over the same period. Agricultural runoff accounts for nearly 60% of nitrogen inputs, while sewage accounts for 9%.

Habitat modification 
(wetland loss, connectivity, loss of resilience)

Changes in biomass as a result of habitat modification (that is, the loss of critical habitats and connectivity from poorly planned growth in coastal and urban areas).

Overfishing of shared, migratory, and connected fish stocks

Changes in biomass as a result of intensive, illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing resulting in eutrophication, harmful algal blooms and red tide events.

Dead zones

These threats collectively result in low oxygen extended events or hypoxia. The extent of hypoxia on the GoM’s northern continental shelf makes this “dead zone” the second-largest manifestation of anthropogenic coastal eutrophication in the world.

What is being done, by whom and how?

The project

In 2018, the 2013 Strategic Action Program Implementation project, with the objective of “improving water quality; enhance economic vitality by avoiding depletion and recover living marine resources; and conserve and restore coastal and marine ecosystems for the GoM-LME” was transferred to UNEP.

The project is based on an “ecosystem-based management (EBM)”. EBM is an approach that goes beyond examining single issues, species, or ecosystem functions in isolation. Instead, it recognizes ecological systems as a rich mix of elements that interact with each other in important ways. By their nature, EBMs promote a cross-sectoral coordination approach across fisheries, maritime, energy, agriculture, coastal development and environment, and other related sectors.

Expected Impact Components

The goal of the project is to improve water quality, avoid depletion and recover living marine resources and rehabilitate the coastal and marine ecosystems of the GoM-LME.

COMPONENT 1. Improve water quality

By addressing pollution resulting from industrial wastewater emissions, the project will measurably improve water quality by reducing HABs and mitigating hypoxic zones.

COMPONENT 2. Avoid depletion and recover living marine resources

The project will contribute to reducing the depletion of targeted fish stocks through the implementation of measures such as regulatory framework updates and enforcement, capacity development, and monitoring.

COMPONENT 3. Conserve and restore the quality of coastal and marine ecosystems

The project will improve coastal and marine ecosystem health through the use of EBM.

Proposed intervention sites

What are the barriers to change?

The political complexity of the GoM-LME region and the economic differences between the bordering nations

The relatively low awareness of decision makers and of the general population regarding the impacts of economic activities on the sustainability of the GoM-LME

The poor entrepreneurial culture among fisheries

The limited dialogue between the government and the private sector, as well as other key stakeholders such as policymakers and the local communities

The need for a strengthened regional transboundary cooperation

The limited mainstreaming of climate change adaptation in GoM-LME governance and management interventions

Strategic Alignment

Who is involved?


GEF new

Implementing & Executing agencies


National Focal Points


Implementing Partners


Associates and Collaborators


Project Coordination Unit


Administrative and communication officer


Technical specialist for Component 1


Technical specialist (for Component 2

Margarita GARCÍA

Technical specialist for Component 3


Administrative and office assistant

Relevant websites


Inception Workshop

July 12th, 2023. Mexico City

1° Project Steerring Committee meeting

July 13th, 2023. Mexico City

1° Implementation Coordination Group meeting

October 12th, 2023. Mérida

1° Technical Workshop

October 13th, 2023. Mérida

2° Implementation Coordination Group meeting

May 6th, 2024. Ciudad del Carmen

Synergies Workshop

May 7th, 2024. Ciudad del Carmen


Coming soon!

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