The new marine “mega reserve” in Galápagos Island, explained

The corridor seeks to amplify the conservation of the Galapagos, Malpelo, Coiba and Cocos marine reserves.
The corridor seeks to amplify the conservation of the Galapagos, Malpelo, Coiba and Cocos marine reserves.

The largest marine corridor in the West will be more protected. On the third day of COP26 , the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, the presidents of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama signed the Declaration for the Conservation of the Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific ( CMAR). 

The declaration has the main objective of conserving the biodiversity and marine and coastal resources of the marine protected areas of Malpelo in Colombia Coiba in Panama, Galapagos in Ecuador and Cocos in Costa Rica. 

The declaration also includes the definition of an adequate model for the protection and management of these protected areas. That model, the statement says, has to establish national and regional measures to protect biodiversity. For the model to be sustained, the support of civil society, international cooperation organizations and the private sector is also important. 

In addition, the declaration includes actions to promote the sustainable use of marine resources in order to provide sustainable solutions that allow fair marine governance. 

Pacific Marine Corridor. 
Photograph of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition.

According to a statement from the General Secretariat of Communication of the Presidency (Segcom), part of the declaration also includes the creation of a Marine Biosphere Reserve between Malpelo, Galapagos, Cocos, and Coiba. The reserve, say the signatory governments, will be a “fundamental” contribution to:

  • The conservation .
  • The adaptation and mitigation of climate change .
  • Compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG ).
  • Achieve the 30 × 30 initiative goal of protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030.

However, there is still no information on the reserve, how and by whom it will be managed, or on how the necessary resources for its protection will be obtained. 

After signing the declaration, President Guillermo Lasso said that “we will have a great marine corridor” and assured that we must conserve water currents so that “our children feel proud.” According to Lasso, the commitment will materialize “immediately”, but did not explain how. 

Who signed the declaration?

The statement was signed by:

  • The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso.
  • The president of Colombia, Iván Duque.
  • The President of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo; and,
  • The President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada. 

At the event in which the declaration was signed, the environment ministers of the four countries were also present.

How will it be financed?

The Declaration will be financed with the support of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) . On the same day that the declaration was signed, CAF approved a million dollars in “technical cooperation” to conserve the Pacific Marine Corridor. 

The money approved by CAF will be used to “encourage joint strategies” in which both the governments of Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama participate, as well as representatives of civil society, international cooperation organizations and NGOs. 

According to CAF, the approved funds will help protect the marine corridor and at the same time contribute to the preservation of the economy of local communities. In addition, the funds are expected to help boost sustainable tourism by taking advantage of the area’s high biodiversity and rich natural resources. 

There are still no details on the specific actions, projects or programs that are planned to be financed with the million dollars. There is also no analysis on whether a million dollars will be enough to protect an area that encompasses the oceans of four countries. 

What is the CMAR?

The CMAR is the Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific.  Luis Suárez, vice president and executive director of Conservation International Ecuador, explains that the CMAR was created in 2004 through the Declaration of San José signed by the environmental authorities of the time. Its objective is to conserve biodiversity and promote the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources present in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama. 

The corridor is important because the reserves that make it up are classified as world heritage ecosystems , according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ( Unesco ). They are unique areas in the world that are home to resources and species that are not found anywhere else. 

In addition, the corridor is important because it is a migratory route for species such as blue whales, humpback whales, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, and others. According to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition , in the Corridor, specifically in the Isla del Coco National Park, in Costa Rica, there is also one of the last best preserved coral reefs on the planet. Coral reefs are extremely important in marine ecosystems because about 25% of all marine life depends on them at some stage in their life cycle.

The CMAR is also economically important. According to its website , it is estimated that the economic income generated by the use and exploitation of the marine biodiversity that inhabits this corridor, exceeds 3 billion dollars each year. The main productive activities that generate these profits are: fishing and its derivatives, tourism and maritime transport. 

The story was originally published on, with the support of Climate Tracker.

Doménica Montaño
Doménica is a journalist from Ecuador who loves to write stories about the environment, climate change, indigenous communities, and human rights. Her favorite story is one she wrote over a year ago about nine girls who sued the Ecuadorian state for violating their rights with the gas flaring systems that are still being used by oil companies in the Amazon. She’s very proud to say that that story was awarded an honorable mention in a human rights journalism competition.