RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Panama created on Tuesday a Pacific reserve of more than 67,000 square kilometers, almost the size of the country, raising to 30% the protection of its marine areas and becoming the second Latin American nation to achieve it within the framework of the 30X30 Initiative of the UN.
Panama has 75,517 square kilometers, and the so-called Cordillera de Coiba Managed Resources Area (ARMCC), located in the eastern Pacific, has 67,908.98 square kilometers protected.
This Tuesday, World Oceans Day, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo signed an executive decree that “extends the limits of the Cordillera de Coiba Managed Resources Area”, in addition to establishing provisions “to protect the country’s natural heritage”.
The decree “contains the regulations that achieve the goal of protecting 30% of Panama’s marine jurisdiction, Chile and Panama being the only countries” in Latin America to achieve this goal, declared the Minister of Environment, Milciades Concepción.
With the expansion, Panama adds 50,518.84 square kilometers to the Coiba protected area, bringing the total to 98,228.25 square kilometers of marine protected areas throughout the country, said the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
STRI biologist and researcher Héctor Guzmán led the multidisciplinary consulting team that promoted the expansion of the Coiba area, which was also integrated by the MigraMar Foundation and the Ministry of Environment.
“Definitely, this decision sends an educational message to conserve what we have (…) it is a big step for Panama,” said Guzman on Tuesday.
PROTECTION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES AND PROMOTION OF SUSTAINABLE FISHING
With the expansion of the Coiba area, “a series of underwater mountain ranges that are home to species exclusive to these depths, and which are still unknown to science because of the great difficulty in studying them,” the STRI said in a public statement.
The areas through which migratory marine species circulate will also be better preserved. At least 14 marine mammals use the area, 12 of which are threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), including the blue whale, the sperm whale, and the northern fin whale, explained the international scientific body.
In addition, a system of monitoring, control, and surveillance of illegal fishing will be established, and the sustainable use of natural resources in the area will be promoted, such as selective fishing, to reduce the incidence of accidental fishing of species important for the health of the seas.
The STRI added that the expansion would strengthen the management of adjacent protected areas and connectivity with other marine protected areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Conservation Corridor, such as Malpelo and Gorgona (Colombia), Coco (Costa Rica), and the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador).
“By guaranteeing the protection of this expanded area, scientific research on marine biodiversity, the conservation status of species, migrations, upwelling processes, the effects of climate change, among others, will be strengthened,” he added.
Coiba occupies a total of 270,125 hectares, 216,000 of which are marine areas, and because of its richness, it was declared a National Park in 1991 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.
It has a chain of submarine mountains considered exceptional geological formations and great biodiversity associated with them.
The protected territory comprises Coiba Island, the largest island in the Central American Pacific, eight smaller islands, and 30 islets, making it one of the largest and most diverse marine parks in the world.
Coiba National Park is part of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, which also includes Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve (Ecuador), Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica), Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary (Colombia), and Gorgona National Natural Park (Colombia).