Panama Assumes Presidency of CMAR

Today, Panama assumed the Presidency Pro Tempore of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR), an initiative between Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia to promote the conservation and responsible management of marine and coastal resources in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean by linking their maritime borders to create one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.  

The CMAR, centered around the protected areas of the Malpelo, Gorgona, Coiba, Galapagos, and Cocos Islands, forms a 500,000 square kilometer uninterrupted corridor comprising some of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet, home to hundreds of marine species. The responsible management of this area and its resources, through CMAR, enables the study and protection of migratory species, creates opportunities for novel scientific research, and contributes to the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s marine resources by 2030 – a milestone which Panama reached in 2021 when it announced the expansion of the Cordillera de Coiba marine protected area.  

The 500,000km2 CMAR was formed by Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia to conserve biodiversity and promote the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources within the maritime boundaries of the four countries.

In a handover ceremony in Panama City, Panama’s Minister of Environment Milciades Concepción accepted the transfer of the CMAR presidency on Panama’s behalf from the delegation of Costa Rica, the previous holder of the office. 

Crucially, Panama’s presidency of the CMAR marks the first time that the Foreign Ministers of the four countries are encouraged to participate in the initiative’s organizational structure, a development which represents Panama’s belief that marine conservation must be a diplomatic, as well as technical, priority. The central role of diplomacy was reaffirmed at COP26 last year when the presidents of the four countries agreed to protect the CMAR and explore new avenues of cooperation to sustainably manage its marine ecosystems. 

“The CMAR is an initiative formed by four countries, yet the marine life that migrates through it recognizes no national boundaries”, said Panama’s Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes during the handover ceremony, where she signed an agreement with her three counterparts to strengthen multilateral conservation efforts. “Ecological connectivity is crucial to successful conservation efforts, and diplomacy is necessary to align policies in a way that protects these marine ecosystems while sustaining the economic benefits that the CMAR provides to our people and region. For this reason, Panama is prioritizing the inclusion of Foreign Ministers in the CMAR decision-making structure, consistent with our belief that diplomacy and marine conservation go hand-in-hand.” 

Furthering collaboration across research, training, and governance within the CMAR is also a key priority for Panama as host of the presidency. Specifically, Panama aims to:  

  • Expand regional surveillance capabilities to identify and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including through the use of satellites and other advanced monitoring systems. 
  • Develop monitoring programs to track and understand the movement of migratory species – including sharks, whales, dolphins, and turtles – and corals within the CMAR, and to gauge how these movements and ecosystems change over time. 
  • Facilitate training of park supervisors and technicians at the marine protected areas that make up the CMAR, to encourage information sharing and the exchange of best practices among conservationists across borders. 
  • Strengthen the CMAR governance, planning, and conflict resolution mechanisms to forecast and resolve social, economic, and ecological conflicts that may arise, including by prioritizing the participation of Foreign Ministers within the CMAR organizational structure. 

The assumption of the CMAR presidency is the latest in a series of concrete actions that Panama has taken to protect its marine ecosystems in the fight against climate change. Earlier this month, Minister of Environment Milciades Concepción represented Panama at the 7th Our Ocean Conference in Palau, where Panama hosted a side event focused on the CMAR and was a founding member of the 2030 Island-Ocean Connection Challenge, which aims to raise $160 million to restore 40 significant island ecosystems by 2030. As host of the 8th Our Ocean Conference in 2023, Panama will welcome government officials, business leaders, international conservation groups, and members of civil society to Panama City to build on this progress with achievable, measurable commitments to preserve and restore the world’s marine ecosystems.