Climate Change, Global

Latin American countries form a vast marine protected area

Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica are the four Latin American countries that decided to join and expand their reserves. They want to interconnect their respective marine protected areas to create a large MPA (Marine Protected Area), this proposed project aims to present ocean diversity in a space of 200,000 sq miles. It also follows the 30×30 campaign to protect 30% of the planet’s oceans by 2030. Max Bello, an ocean policy advisor, claims that “a new era – to provide protection to species which know no frontiers – has been born.”

By joining the existing reserves, the birth of a ‘mega-MPA’ will protect migratory turtles, whales, and sharks from foreign fishing fleets. This fishing practice has been deemed unethical and has exploited marine life. “A slaughterhouse […] going on on a massive scale in international waters and nobody is witnessing it,” said Jonathan Green, the co-founder and director of the Galapagos Whale Shark Project. 

To limit illegal and under-reported fishing, Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, announced plans to expand its 133,000 sq km Galapagos marine reserve to 60,000 sq km. A day after, Ivan Duque, Colombia’s president, added 160,000 sq km of marine protected areas. President Lasso said countries ‘have called for action, not words.’

Despite Latin American countries being underdeveloped, they have continued to reduce fishing efforts. Ecuador’s environment minister, Gustavo Manrique, calls this joining force between nations “a new language of global conservation, […] connecting maritime borders […] to create a public policy.” Since 2019, Latin American countries are in the lead with MPAs, with Argentina counting 73 MPAs, Chile 25, and Uruguay 8. These MPAs amount to an MPA coverage of 23.02%.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, recognises Latin America’s joint efforts and names it a “bold and ambitious new initiative,” encouraging other nations to act collectively and to “do more to protect our world’s most precious resource.”

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Melody Chan

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January 2022
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