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JNCC staff lead support for the evolution of the world’s largest trans-national MPA network

News Item 2022

JNCC is leading support for the creation of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, which is set to become the largest trans-national MPA network of its kind in the world. Protected under the actions of the Corredor Marino del Pacifico Este Tropical (CMAR) initiative, this Corridor covers one of the world’s most important migratory routes for sea turtles, whales, sharks and rays, and links the waters of the Pacific-facing countries of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.

At COP26 in Glasgow in November 2022, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama announced their plans to join forces to increase the size of their protected waters by putting in place a fishing-free zone covering more than 500,000 km2, through the formation of the CMAR initiative.

JNCC, in collaboration with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), is leading technical-level assessments with the four CMAR countries to explore opportunities for the successful implementation of the CMAR initiative, and to understand capabilities and priorities for wider MPA networks within each country.

The team has begun the first of a series of workshops in-country; hosting a two-day workshop in Bogota, Colombia with representatives from a wide range of interest groups such as environmental NGOs, government and the fisheries and defence sectors. The team also took the opportunity to meet with INVEMAR, Colombia’s main coastal and marine government-funded research institute.

Dr Gemma Harper OBE, CEO of JNCC, said: "It is an honour for JNCC to be at the forefront of supporting efforts to further the protection of one of the most biodiverse marine environments in the Eastern Pacific. Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama have taken ambitious, collaborative action to protect the ocean. The workshops undertaken so far have offered invaluable insights into both CMAR and country-level MPA priorities. This will enable us to maximise the added value of our participation in conservation efforts across all four countries".

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean has been widely recognised internationally as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) by parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The area is of high significance for a wide range of species, including hammerhead sharks, humpback whales, and leatherback and Ridley turtles; and birds, such as cormorants, boobies and pelicans. It also plays a vital role as a migratory route for several of these species.

The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith announced during his visit to Ecuador and Costa Rica in January that the UK will work in partnership with the four countries to protect some of the world’s most important and biodiverse marine environments, including the rich feeding and breeding grounds around Malpelo Island, the Cocos Ridge, the Cordillera de Coiba seamounts and the Galapagos Islands.

The UK will invest an initial £2 million of official development assistance (ODA) though the World Bank’s PROBLUE programme and provide technical assistance through Defra’s Ocean Country Partnership Programme. Both initiatives are supported by the UK’s newly established Blue Planet Fund, that will help develop sustainable marine economies in ODA-eligible countries, including protecting species found nowhere else on Earth, and help coastal communities counter a range of threats, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and plastic pollution.

The team will be travelling next to Ecuador, where there will be a series of Ministerial and technical meetings, as well as workshops with NGOs, government and industry. Technical visits will take place in Panama and Costa Rica over the summer, before results are put together and presented for discussion in an all-country meeting during the Autumn where the next steps in the work will be agreed.

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