SEMARNAT is a Mexican federal agency responsible for environmental protection, natural resource management, and the promotion of sustainable development in Mexico. Tour operators are required to secure permits and licenses for various nautical activities. Some permits, such as those related to the Whale Shark encounters, also require annual educational classes, bilingual studies, and that company administration, boat captains, and guides, all attend separate whale shark classes, graduate and are licensed separately. In addition to commercial operational compliance with the various Port Captain’s offices, each vessel involved in activities like the whale shark encounter must be separately licensed. SEMARNAT was created in 2000 as part of a government reorganization process aimed at consolidating environmental policy under a single agency.

SEMARNAT is responsible for developing and implementing policies, programs, and regulations related to environmental protection, natural resource management, climate change, and biodiversity conservation. The agency's main areas of focus include air and water quality, waste management, biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, environmental impact assessment, and environmental education.

SEMARNAT's work includes monitoring and enforcing compliance with environmental regulations, issuing permits and authorizations for activities that may impact the environment, conducting scientific research and monitoring programs, and promoting sustainable development practices in collaboration with other government agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

SEMARNAT also oversees several other agencies and institutions, including CONANP, which is responsible for managing Mexico's protected natural areas, and PROFEPA, which is responsible for enforcing environmental regulations and addressing environmental violations.

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