Story at a glance

  • Four Latin American countries are combining their marine protected areas to create a fishing-free area of more than 200,000 square miles.
  • The new Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor will be one of the world’s most important migratory routes.
  • The move reflects the growing popularity of a U.K.-led initiative to protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica on Tuesday said they would combine their marine reserves to create the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, a vast fishing-free area spanning more than 500,000 square kilometers, or 200,000 square miles. It’ll be critical to the migratory routes of sea turtles, whales, sharks and rays.

The decision reflects a growing initiative to protect 30 percent of the planet’s oceans by 2030. Currently, just under 3 percent of the ocean lies within a highly protected zone, according to the U.K.-led 30x30 campaign, which heads the initiative. Panama in June more than quadrupled the Cordillera de Coiba marine protected area.

Colombian President Ivan Duque announced an additional 160 square kilometers of marine protected area on top of the country’s existing 120,000 square kilometers Tuesday at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow. 

Just a day earlier, Guillermo Lasso, the president of Ecuador, announced the expansion of the Galapagos marine reserve by 60,000 square kilometers.

“Just as all the world leaders here have called for action not words, I believe this is a concrete action on behalf of Ecuador that goes beyond any words we can say here,” Lasso told The Guardian shortly after the announcement.


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Lasso added that the expansion comes after five months of meetings with small-scale and industrial fishermen, so he doesn’t expect any “problem of rejection or protest because it is a consensual decision.”

The expansion connects Ecuadorian and Costa Rican waters, forming a “safe swimway” where migratory species can travel, Gustavo Manrique, Ecuador’s Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, said in comments at Cop26

“This is the new language of global conservation. Never have countries with connecting maritime borders joined together to create a public policy,” he told The Guardian, noting that Ecuador’s contribution comes despite having one of the largest fishing fleets in the Pacific.

The expanded Galapagos protected area will be split into two sections: a no-take zone of roughly 30,000 square kilometers to the northeast of the Islands, and a no-longline fishing zone that wraps around the existing marine reserve on the northwest side.


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Published on Nov 03, 2021