Editor’s note: Today is the first day of the Our Ocean conference, an annual event hosted by the United States to seek commitments for protecting the ocean. The conference comes on the heels of historic commitments made last week from the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador, who declared their intention to expand their countries’ pledges to ocean protection. Human Nature sat down with Scott Henderson, vice president of Conservation International (CI)’s Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape program, to discuss the significance of these commitments, which have largely avoided widespread attention so far.
Question: What did the presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica announce?
Answer: Ecuador reiterated its commitment to rezoning the Galápagos Marine Reserve, beginning with the creation of a 36,000-square-kilometer (13,900-square-mile) fully protected sanctuary in the northwest of the reserve. Colombia stated their intention to quadruple the size (to more than 27,000 square kilometers, or 10,425 square miles) of the fully protected Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. Costa Rica announced their intention to create a 10,000-square-kilometer (3,861-square-mile) fully protected area around Cocos National Park.
Here’s why it matters: These three presidents made sweeping commitments that could transform the way their ocean resources are managed, generating incredible benefits for their people. These commitments were made during a ceremony to celebrate the culmination of nearly 30 years of negotiations to agree on the definitive maritime borders between the three countries. Sitting behind these commitments is the growing recognition that creating marine reserves is not a wasted economic opportunity, but just the opposite: President Rafael Correa of Ecuador emphasized that industrial fishermen have told him they are one of the main beneficiaries of the Galápagos Marine Reserve. Effectively, the reserve has served as a massive fish “bank” that pays out “interest” to those that scoop up the abundant spillover on the reserve boundaries.