Four Latin American Countries to Create Massive Marine Reserve in the Pacific Ocean

Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica unite to form CMAR, a protected marine corridor spanning 500,000 km², safeguarding diverse oceanic species.

Four Latin American countries, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica, each with coasts off the Pacific Ocean, have joined forces and committed to linking each of their marine reserves together. This collaborative action will form a single interconnected area and create one of the richest pockets of biodiversity in the ocean. That area, to be called the Eastern Tropical pacific Marine Corridor (or CMAR), would be protected and thus free of any fishing. CMAR would cover over 500,000 square kilometers (or 200,000 square miles) including important migratory routes for a number of species, such as sea turtles, whales, sharks, and rays.

The collaboration, which was announced in early November during COP26, was prompted by vocal concerns of the four countries’ people and scientists in response to over-fishing from foreign commercial fleets as well as illegal and unregulated local fishing communities – both of which have endangered fish populations. The creation of this preserve should help protect both commercial varieties of fish as well as rare species that thrive within CMAR’s borders.

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,” Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador, told the Guardian after the announcement of CMAR. Lasso added that the plan, which supposedly involves one of the largest debt swaps for conservation in history, was “an absolutely direct response of middle-income countries with a commitment to humanity.”

This action represents the first time countries with connected maritime borders have joined forces in order to create a cooperative public environmental policy for those borders.

According to Alex Hearn, a British marine biologist who has worked in the Galapagos Islands for twenty years, the eastern tropical Pacific is “one of the last bastions of what ocean biodiversity would look like in a pristine world.” As such, the area is incredibly important for scientific research.

Scientists are hoping that this protection of the connectivity between the areas will help support the populations of highly migratory species which have been falling in recent decades. This includes turtles, rays and sharks, and especially the critically endangered species of hammerhead sharks that breed around some of the Galapagos islands.

While creation of CMAR is an undeniably good thing, ocean researchers are hoping to keep building on this unprecedented level of cooperation and protection, with an eventual goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

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