The Eastern Tropical Pacific region is a vast swath of open ocean, coasts and islands that stretches from the west coast of Mexico to the northern tip of Peru. Its rich waters support some of the world’s most productive fisheries, and are home to wildlife found nowhere else on the planet.
The region’s spectacular scenery and wildlife have made it a global tourism destination, and seven marine sites within this corridor have earned World Heritage status for their beauty and biodiversity: Galapagos Islands, Coiba National Park, Cocos Island National Park, Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Archipiélago de Revillagigedo, and Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California.
While each of these places is singular, they do share challenges, like illegal and unsustainable fishing, and their collective health impacts wide-ranging species like sharks, tuna, swordfish, blue whales, humpbacks and leatherback turtles.
Nations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific have a history of cooperation. In 2004, the governments of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador signed the San José Declaration that formally established the Marine Conservation Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific between the islands of Cocos, Galapagos, Malpelo and Coiba. A three-year project by UNESCO World Heritage Centre and Conservation International helped to build conservation capacity in the area, and resulted in World Heritage designation for Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.
Last month, at the Third Marine World Heritage Managers Conference, managers from all seven sites in the Eastern Tropical Pacific signed an agreement that will scale up this regional collaboration. The Carta de Punta Suarez, named for the spectacular part of Isla Espanola on which the agreement was conceived, outlines three key goals:
- Promote the exchange of scientific and technical information to improve the management of each site;
- Seek joint funding to support regional projects that will support effective conservation; and
- Organize meetings to define joint actions that will serve common objectives.
International cooperation is the foundation of World Heritage. The World Heritage Centre is pleased that the Third Marine World Heritage Managers Conference has facilitated a new strategic alliance in the Eastern Tropical Pacific that recognizes the interconnectedness of these seven wonders, and look forward to reporting on the results of the Carta de Punta Suarez in the coming years.
“This is the first agreement between World Heritage Marine Protected Areas in this vast biological corridor between Gulf of California and Galapagos Islands in the Eastern Tropical Pacific that share not just mega fauna like sharks and marine mammals, or similar ecosystems, like coral reefs or insular and pristine territories, but a similar idiosyncrasy, language and cultural diversity,” said Carlos Ramón Godínez Reyes of the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California.