On 15 February 2011 the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property. This report provides an overview of progress made in finalizing and implementing a management plan for the Special Zone of Marine Protection, establishing a formal policy on the development and conservation of the coastal zone opposite the property, and removing cattle from the property, as requested by the Committee in Decision 33 COM 7B.38. On 9 December 2010, the State Party submitted the Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for review but it was considered incomplete.
a) Management planning, fisheries management and governance
The State Party reports that the Management Plan for the Special Zone of Marine Protection (SZMP) and associated fisheries regulations have yet to be finalised and approved, as urged by the Committee in Decision 33 COM 7B.38. No clear fisheries monitoring system for the property has been developed, as recommended by IUCN in its evaluation. The State Party notes that the National Fisheries Agency has established a satellite monitoring system for fishing vessels in all Panamanian jurisdictional waters, and that baseline data is available for geo-referenced fishing grounds, which should enable monitoring of the impacts of fishing activities on the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the development of a satellite monitoring system. They consider that coordinated communication between ARAP and the National Environmental Agency (ANAM) will be crucial to enable effective surveillance and control of illegal fishing. However, IUCN notes that it has received worrying reports about a marked increase in commercial, artisanal and sports fishing within Coiba National Park (NP) and its SZMP. This increase is reportedly linked to the delayed implementation of the Coiba NP Management Plan over the last three years, the continuing lack of a Management Plan for the Special Zone of Marine Protection, the poor capacity of the management agency, and other related governance issues. These reports are substantiated by a letter from the Scientific Committee of Coiba NP addressed to the Park’s Board of Directors, dated 17 February 2011, which proposes a number of potential solutions to accelerate the implementation of Coiba NP’s Management Plan. Furthermore, it appears that Montuosa Island within the property has been partly cleared for housing and banana plantations and has been used as a base for carrying out sports fishing, illegal shark fishing and turtle harvesting.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are seriously concerned by the reported increase in commercial, artisanal and sports fishing within the property. Unless the Coiba NP and the SZMP Management Plans are urgently finalized and properly implemented, as requested by the Committee in Decision 33 COM 7B.38, the integrity of the property risks being seriously compromised. They also emphasize the importance of ensuring that the property’s Management Plan’s provisions and fishing regulations are adequately publicised amongst local communities, commercial operators and other park stakeholders and effectively applied by the authorities.
b) Coastal development
The State Party reports that it has not established a formal policy on the development and conservation of the coastal zone opposite the property, and emphasizes that existing environmental legislation and development plans provide considerable protection for the property. The Panamanian Tourism Authority has developed a Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism for Coiba (2007-2020), which includes strategic guidelines for tourism management. However, further details on these guidelines are not provided. The State Party notes that the Master Plan does not include infrastructure or high-impact development on the coast nearest to the property. A number of investment projects are planned for 2010-2011 outside the property, including tourist wharves, visitor reception centres and a theme park, as well as sanitary facilities for visitors on Coiba Island.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain seriously concerned about the growing potential for coastal development on the shores opposite the property. They recall that coastal development could exacerbate recreational and sports fishing pressures and significantly increase water pollution, and consider that existing environmental legislation and other development control mechanisms are insufficient to safeguard the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN strongly recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to i) undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the coastal zone’s development potential, and ii) develop and implement a coastal zone development and conservation policy on the basis of this assessment to ensure that the cumulative development impacts to the property's Outstanding Universal Value are foreseen and effectively averted.
c) Continued presence of cattle
The State Party reports that it plans to remove 500 of the estimated 1,500 wild cattle within the property by 30 April 2011, and that most of the remaining pasture on Coiba Island has been fenced, with the exception of the San Juan River area. ANAM, which is now responsible for the removal of cattle, has prepared terms of reference for a private company to undertake the removal of 500 animals to the mainland. The State Party also reports that many cattle are dying of malnutrition and disease.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the State Party’s efforts to remove wild cattle from Coiba Island, but remain concerned that none have been removed to date and that they continue to negatively affect the property’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems through soil erosion and the resulting siltation of its coral reefs. They recall that the State Party submitted an International Assistance Request in March 2010 for a project to remove cattle from Coiba Island. IUCN at the time noted that the proposed methodology - round up and live removal of cattle - would be extremely challenging given the island’s rugged terrain, and recommended that the State Party also consider other options, such as hunting (as has been successfully implemented in the large goat eradication project in Galapagos, Ecuador) to ensure the complete removal of cattle from Coiba Island. Advice should be sought on other potential methods for the permanent removal of cattle from Coiba Island, with the support of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.
d) Construction of a naval station on Coiba Island
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have received reports that a naval station is under construction at the former site of the Coiba Island prison. A letter to the State Party was sent on 9 April 2010, indicating concerns over the potential impacts of this development and requested further information, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. A second letter was sent on 22 March 2011. To date, no response has been received. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned over the potential impacts of such a military base on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, namely that:
· The base does not become a source if introduction of new species (e.g. biosecurity measures should be put in place);
· Personnel be well informed against trafficking of wildlife;
· Personnel do not engage in agricultural productions;
· Boundaries be very clearly marked, ideally with a fence, and as small as possible, with restrictions on movement of people beyond those boundaries;
· Shore facilities be built and managed in such as way as to not destroy sea bottoms, and contribute to erosion;
· The airport not be permitted to contribute to development pressures, such as tourism and hotels.