Illustration Credit: Overfishing by Gatis Sluka, Cagle Cartoons
On Tuesday at the UN Climate Change Summit (COP26), Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica inaugurated a new environmental protection zone spanning the maritime territories of each country. According to its members, the Eastern Tropical Pacific Maritime Corridor (CMAR) will create fishing-free zones covering 500,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The zone constitutes an expansion of each country’s existing protecting maritime areas, including Ecuador’s marine reserve surrounding the Galápagos Islands. President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador highlighted the increase in industrial fishing as an important catalyst for the agreement, noting the threat that overfishing poses to marine ecosystems.
The Pacific coast of South America has seen a significant rise in activity from Chinese ships in recent years, exemplified by a 2017 incident in which a Chinese vessel was captured with 300 tons of marine wildlife. Chinese fishing fleets, often numbering about 300 ships, travel to the Pacific Coast of Latin America each summer in search of Humboldt squids and other valuable, but vulnerable, marine life.
To aid Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica in preserving the marine habitat, the CAF Development Bank of Latin America has pledged U.S. $1 million in resources and technical support. The CMAR is part of a larger, global effort to conserve 30 percent of the earth’s oceans and land by 2030. Each participant in the CMAR has joined the 30×30 movement, with President Duque declaring Colombia’s intention to protect 30% of its land and sea territory by 2022.