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Four Latin American nations unite to establish vast Pacific marine reserve

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

Four Latin American nations unite to establish vast Pacific marine reserve
cactus tree near the body of water during daytime | Photo by LUNA ZHANG on UNSPLASH

Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica, all with Pacific coastlines, have united to link their marine reserves into a single interconnected area, aiming to protect one of the ocean's richest biodiversity hotspots. The newly formed Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) will cover over 500,000 square kilometers (or 200,000 square miles), banning fishing to protect crucial migratory routes for sea turtles, whales, sharks, and rays. 

Announced at COP26 in early November, the collaboration arose from widespread concerns over overfishing by foreign fleets and unregulated local fishing, both of which have threatened 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 the creation of CMAR marks a significant achievement, ocean researchers aim to extend this level of cooperation and protection, targeting 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.

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