Kudos to Panama! The Central American country, whose eastern shores border the Caribbean Sea, has now protected more than 50% of its total marine area. This move happened in March at the 2023 Our Ocean Conference in Panama City, when the country’s president signed a decree to substantially expand the limits of the Banco Volcan Area of Managed Resources (Banco Volcán AMR) to further protect important marine ecosystems, endangered flora and fauna, and key fishing resources found within Panama’s territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea. The expansion increases the size of the Banco Volcán AMR from approximately 14,200 sq km to over 90,000 sq km, with at least half of the total zone designated as a fully protected marine area where no extractive or environmentally damaging activities will be allowed.
“The extension of Banco Volcán does not imply any new restrictions for anchoring in these areas; although we understand that since this MPA is far from the coast, there are few options for someone to need to anchor a yacht within the new limits,” says Yelena Rodríguez, Panama’s director of communications for the Ministry of Environment. “The increase in the protected marine area means the assurance of protection of important ecosystems. These include underwater mountain ranges that serve as routes for highly migratory species in the Caribbean such as Turtles and Sharks. Promoting marine diversity means the region can be enjoyed for other activities like eco-tourism.”
Panama is now one of the few nations globally to reach this 50%-plus milestone and the only one in Latin America. It also significantly surpasses the goal of protecting at least 30% of the country’s marine area by 2030, an international target recently adopted by roughly 190 countries during the 15th United Nations Biodiversity Conference. ouroceanpanama2023.gob.pa, www.tourismpanama.com