In Mexico’s Atlantic region, coral reefs occur in three major areas: the southwest Gulf of Mexico, Campeche Bank, and the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula. Whereas in the Caribbean coral reefs are a common feature, in the Gulf of Mexico, both in the southwestern Gulf and Campeche Bank, their distribution is restricted to small areas.
The southwestern Gulf of Mexico reefs are generally smaller than 10 sq km area, distinctly isolated, and lie close to shore and thus are affected by the silt-laden discharge of large rivers, particularly intense during the rainy season. Campeche Bank reefs follow the outer fringes of the extensive Yucatan shelf. Alcarnes in the northern Campeche Bank is an exceptionally large bank reef with an atoll shape that covers an area greater then 650 sq km. In the Mexican Caribbean, fringing reefs border most of the continental and insular shores. Commonly a wide lagoon separates the reefs from the shoreline.  The major reef formation is the Chinchorro Bank which is the largest atoll-like reef found in the Caribbean region.
Nearly 50 percent of Mexico’s reefs were rated as threatened by human activities. The most pervasive threat identified was overfishing, threatening nearly half of Mexico’s reefs, particularly the reefs in the Caribbean Sea. There is no proper documentation of reef fisheries, but, as in most areas, fishing has been the primary use of coral reefs in the Mexican Atlantic.  The southwestern Gulf reefs have been exploited for several hundred years as a result of their proximity to shore and to large urban centers. The Campeche Bank is exploited by fishermen from many settlements along the Veracruz-to-Yucatan coast who travel across as much as 300 km of open waters aboard open boats equipped with ice chests. The Caribbean reefs have been subjected to intense artisanal fishing starting in the1960s,  ever since this formerly underdeveloped and isolated coast has been opened to the pressures of modern development. 
Coastal development was rated as a threat to 30 percent of the country’s reefs, especially around the massive tourist development occurring in and near Cancun. The Mexican Caribbean is bordered by Quintana Roo state, which has become a very successful resort area and is nowadays the main destination of tourists within Mexico. This has brought massive coastal development and infrastructure to cater to the demand, affecting the natural drainage system and shore sediment dynamics, causing pollution and direct physical impacts. Modern coastal development is rapidly expanding along this coast, and the government plans to build a huge, high-density tourist resort complex extending down to the Belizean border. 
Land conversion and agricultural activities are estimated to threaten about 14 percent of Mexico’s Atlantic reefs, particularly along the southwestern Gulf near Veracruz. As a result of its large size and proximity to the reefs, the large city of Veracruz exerts the heaviest anthropogenic impacts on any reefs in Mexico. These reefs receive the outflow of major river systems carrying agricultural and industrial wastes from the urban discharges of the city and port of Veracruz and from the wide area around it.  Marine-based activities also threaten an estimated 17 percent of reefs, particularly around the port facilities of Cancun and Cozumel. Not captured in the analysis is the considerable shipping traffic and risk of the spills associated with the oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Campeche Bank and the Caribbean reefs are affected more often and by more severe hurricanes than those in the southwestern Gulf. The highest hurricane frequency occurs on the Campeche Bank, because there are two storm sources: the ones coming from the Caribbean and those generated in the Gulf itself. Considerable declines in coral cover at Puerto Morelos and nearby reefs have been related to the impacts of hurricane Gilbert in 1988. 
Coral bleaching in the northern sector of the Mexican Caribbean was observed in 1995, 1997, and 1998, but not before.  In the 1998 event that led to extensive bleaching along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, reefs in Mexico were far less affected by mortality than reefs in Belize or Honduras.  Little is known of the extent of coral diseases in the Mexican Atlantic reefs although black bland and white band have been observed in all areas.  Massive Acropora mortality was observed in the southwestern Gulf and around Alcarnes in the 1970s through disease.
Nine protected natural areas that include coral reefs exist in the Atlantic margin of Mexico. Two of them are biosphere reserves, while seven are national parks and are part of the System of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico (La Sistema Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas, or SINAP). These areas are managed by the National Ecology Institute (Instituto Nacional de Ecologia, or INE). In biosphere reserves, Mexico pioneered in the use of a zoning system that allows use of parks for tourism and economic productivity, while other areas are off limits except for scientific study. Unlike national parks, biosphere reserves allow people to continue to live in protected natural areas. Adherence to protection laws is a huge challenge because of lack of funding, management plans, enforcement, and population’s low ecological awareness. 
 E. Jord