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Protect critically endangered species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific

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Update: On World Ocean Day 2021, Panama surpassed the 30×30 target to become the leading country in marine protection in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Seascape. This action tripled the size of the Cordillera de Coiba MPA, with nearly 70 percent designated as fully protected from extractive activities and the remaining 30 percent set aside for sustainable use. Panama is leading by example and taking meaningful action. But this won’t be enough. We must encourage Panama’s neighbors to also expand their MPAs and work together to safeguard the ETP Seascape as soon as possible.

Call on the governments of Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Colombia to join Panama in protecting the migration routes of species threatened with extinction.

Increased commercial fishing pressure is contributing to the decline of marine life in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Seascape.

This is especially true along important animal migration routes, where commercial fishing operations, both domestic and foreign, have been documented engaging in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Industrial fishing operations frequently result in troubling amounts of “bycatch”—the catching of non-target species which are often discarded once injured or dead, or illegally landed and exported for profit · Shawn Heinrichs
In Costa Rica there are more than 40 species of sharks. Nearly half face the danger of imminent extinction · Shawn Heinrichs
Sharks are some of the most diversified and abundant top predators in the marine food web, and if you remove sharks, you threaten to damage the entire system · Shawn Heinrichs
In 2019 the global status of scalloped hammerheads was escalated from endangered to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List · Shawn Heinrichs

In the Galápagos Islands alone, foreign industrial fishing vessels logged a mind-boggling 73,000 hours of fishing in just one month.

On top of this, over a two year span 136 fishing vessels from Ecuador’s own industrial fleet, one of the biggest in Latin America, entered the Galápagos Marine Reserve, a protected area where fishing is not allowed.

Meanwhile, Panama and Costa Rica are among the world’s top exporters of shark meat. A troubling title given that global shark and ray populations have experienced a severe drop of more than 70 percent in the past 50 years.

Though the region boasts important marine protected areas (MPAs)—such as those surrounding the islands of Galápagos, Cocos, Malpelo, and Coiba—marine wildlife does not recognize these borders, and the ocean between the MPAs is completely unprotected and wide open to fishing.

The “Proposed Marine Protected Area” based on scientific reports generated by MigraMar researchers. They are subject to change pending final technical reports. · Source for current marine protected area data: Marine Conservation Institute

Even worse, industrial fishing vessels often lure marine life out of protected areas with the use of bait, deliberately exploiting the current patchwork of protected areas.

This is particularly worrying for migratory species like hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and leatherback sea turtles, which must travel between different sites to find food and breed.

It’s critical that we act now to build on past progress for protection.

A scalloped hammerhead shark hovers above a cleaning station near Darwin Island, part of the Galápagos archipelago · Shawn Heinrichs
Green sea turtles spend most of their lives in the open ocean, migrating between foraging grounds and nesting grounds, sometimes travelling thousands of miles · Cristina Mittermeier
The world’s largest fish, whale sharks are one among many iconic species found in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape · Shawn Heinrichs
Waved albatrosses dance and lovingly preen each other, performing ancient courtship rituals designed to find the perfect mate · Cristina Mittermeier
An impressive five major ocean currents converge in the ETP Seascape, bolstering the dispersal of corals, crustaceans, fishes, and many other creatures · Cristina Mittermeier
Marine iguanas are unique to the Galápagos Islands in the ETP Seascape, where they use their long claws to cling to the slippery rocks along the coast · Cristina Mittermeier

As part of our ongoing efforts to help amplify this campaign, our co-founders Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen are at this moment sailing through the ETP Seascape on the SeaLegacy 1 with our crew of scientists, storytellers, and collaborators, documenting marine wildlife and meeting the policymakers and activists who are working to ensure that this beautiful, vital area of ocean is adequately protected for future generations.

Explore the SeaLegacy 1 route in the map below.
Join the local communities, artisanal fishers, government officials, and dozens of organizations in calling on the governments of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama to establish the world’s first multinational network of marine protected areas in the ETP Seascape. Then, help build momentum by sharing the campaign on Facebook and Twitter with #ETPSeascape.

Continue exploring the importance of making a safe haven for marine species in the ETP Seascape in The Jewel of the Pacific, an Only One series.


The Jewel of the Pacific

Securing safe passage for iconic species

Special thanks to our partner organizations:

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