Mexico's government took steps this month to protect fisheries in the Caribbean region in response to requests from fishermen who are pushing for more sustainable lobster harvests.

Four marine sanctuaries covering 133 sq. kilometers (51 sq. miles) were created under an agreement between the federal government and fishermen who belong to four cooperatives.

The Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fishing and Food Secretariat published the agreement creating the sanctuaries in southeastern Mexico in the Official Daily of the Federation on Sept. 12.

The Andres Quintana Roo, Banco Chinchorro, José Maria Azcorra and Langosteros del Caribe fishing cooperatives requested the creation of the sanctuaries in Quintana Roo state.

The Cooperativa Cozumel had succeeded in pressing for the creation of a sanctuary in November 2012.

Area fishermen agreed to stop working the waters in the protected areas to give marine life time to recover as part of an effort to maintain long-term production.

"My son is 11. He did not see the number of lobsters I was able to see," Gerardo Velazquez, a member of the Vigia Chico cooperative in Punta Allen, told Efe.

Fishermen have agreed not to take lobsters that are less than 13.5 centimeters (5.3 inches) long or females carrying eggs.

"It's like petroleum, which everybody fights over. We live off this," Gerardo said, referring to the need to protect marine resources.

The cooperatives are granted 20-year concessions by the federal government if they can show that they are following sustainable fishing practices. 

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