Improving fisheries enforcement in Panama: MarViva & Conservation International

Islas Secas is a small archipelago of jungle-covered volcanic islands in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor of Panama. Here, The Moore Charitable Foundation’s local affiliate, The Islas Secas Foundation (ISF), supports marine species research and conservation as well as efforts to protect threatened wildlife, the rainforest, and rights of indigenous people. Strategic partners in the area include MarViva, Conservation International, Audubon Panama, Panacetacea, Panthera, Rainforest Foundation, and Azuero Earth Project.

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape Project is a partnership between the governments of Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, along with Conservation International, the UNESCO World Heritage Center, and the UN Foundation all working together to establish an ecologically representative network of marine protected areas from Costa Rica to Ecuador that protects all major habitats and important species in the region.

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape Project is a partnership between the governments of Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, along with Conservation International, the UNESCO World Heritage Center, and the UN Foundation all working together to establish an ecologically representative network of marine protected areas from Costa Rica to Ecuador that protects all major habitats and important species in the region.

In Panama, as in too many parts of the world, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing is a very severe threat to fragile ecosystems and sustainable fisheries critical to the economies and food security of dependent coastal communities. Recently, members of the MCF team traveled there on a learners trip to better understand how our partners are advocating for Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), protected ocean areas where human activity is more strictly regulated to further conservation goals, and for the ocean in general, in the face of overfishing.

This is the battle of choice of MarViva and Conservation International, who are in the last year of a three-year effort focused on improving fisheries enforcement in Panama around the Coiba marine reserve, and on ratification and implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement.

Major project objectives include helping governments develop databases of fishing vessels and licenses, training port inspectors and prosecutors, strengthening regulations and laws, and improving public communications about illegal fishing.

Certain milestones related to legal and regulatory changes continue to be very challenging – for instance, building political will for fisheries enforcement. However, our meeting in Panama City with these partners and later with a brand new Ministry of the Environment bolstered our expectations, and we look forward to seeing increased public communications, high-level regional cooperation, and the establishment of a technical committee and monitoring program for sport fishing and artisanal fishing operations.

A highlight of our visit was a discussion with the aforementioned partners and a group of sports fishermen and women who represent the interests of this booming industry. Clearly focused on conservation and regulations so that they may continue the line of work they love and depend upon, collaboration on all fronts seems very likely.

Thank you again to the teams of MarViva, Conservation International, and our organizers at Oceans 5 who made our trip possible. Read more here about Marine Protected Areas.

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