The eastern tropical Pacific Ocean encompasses the sovereign waters of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama. These rich waters are characterized by an extraordinary number of endemic, native, and migratory species and feature key habitats for whales, tuna, rays, sea turtles, and birds, as well as the world’s highest concentrations of sharks.
Recognizing this exceptional biodiversity, each of the four countries has created marine protected areas (MPAs) to help safeguard biological hot spots, including Cocos (Costa Rica), Coiba (Panama), the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), and Yurupari-Malpelo and Gorgon (Colombia).
To encourage collaboration on conservation and the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources across this area, these four countries established the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) in 2004 by joint declaration. The agreement provides a formal framework for the countries to work collaboratively on complex, multidimensional marine conservation challenges such as biodiversity loss and overfishing.
According to research, ecological connectivity within the region is clearly demonstrated by the large numbers of migratory species that travel between these MPAs, as well as larvae dispersal patterns. In November 2021, the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama signed a joint memorandum of understanding to create a 500,000-square-kilometer (193,000-square-mile) transboundary biosphere reserve aimed at better connecting and protecting their individual MPAs. Safeguarding the pathways between the region’s linked biological hot spots would protect the many other creatures that rely on these corridors to feed, gather, reproduce, and give birth.
The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project is supporting the creation, implementation, and maintenance of transboundary marine protections in the region as part of a coalition of philanthropic, government, and nongovernmental organizations. The coalition provides financial support and technical assistance and works closely with elected leaders, communities, Indigenous groups, government officials, and scientists.
Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project
The Pew Charitable Trusts and Dona Bertarelli joined forces in 2017 to create the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, with the shared goal of establishing the first generation of ecologically significant, large, and effective MPAs around the world. Today, the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project also seeks to connect MPAs and help conserve key migratory species and entire marine ecosystems. These efforts build on more than a decade of work by Pew and the Bertarelli Foundation, led by Dona Bertarelli, to create large-scale highly or fully protected MPAs. Between them, they have helped to obtain designations to safeguard nearly 9 million square kilometers (3.5 million square miles) of ocean by working with communities, local leaders, philanthropic partners, Indigenous groups, government officials, and scientists. Dona Bertarelli is a philanthropist, investor, sportswoman, and strong advocate for ocean conservation. The Pew Charitable Trusts addresses the challenges of a changing world by illuminating issues, creating common ground, and advancing ambitious projects including the need for effective marine conservation.