1.         Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection (Panama) (N 1138rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2005

Criteria  (ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1138/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1138/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD350, 000 for management planning, installation of mooring buoys for diving boats, working with local communities, capacity building, public use planning and improved stakeholder understanding of legal protection measures.

Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1138/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 26 February 2013 which details progress toward implementation of Decision 36COM 7B.33. The State Party notes that the retrospective statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is included in section II of the Periodic Report, however this was not received by the World Heritage Centre.

a)  Management planning, fisheries management and governance

The State Party acknowledges that a Management Plan for the Special Zone of Marine Protection (SZMP) remains to be completed, despite the World Heritage Committee’s repeated requests, as early as 2005, for its finalization (28 COM 8B.13).  It indicates that the Commission for the Sustainable Management for Fishing Practices in the SZMP continues to meet with the purpose of assuring the implementation of the World Heritage Committee recommendations. The State Party notes that the delay in the completion of the management plan is due to the lack of information, including on fishing activities, adding that progress is being made toward obtaining this information via the collection of funds for consultations (together with MarViva and Conservation International) and through scientific expeditions. It has expressed support for carrying out an independent Management Effectiveness Evaluation of the property but no progress has been made to undertake the work.

The State Party reports that conservation actions toward artisanal fishing are being implemented; the number of artisanal fishing vessels has been reduced from 47 to 21. It reports that sport fishing permit numbers are stable and that violations of illegal fishing activities have decreased, likely due to the presence of Sea-Air Service that patrols the area.  The World Heritage Centre notes a March 2013 press report on the State Party’s decommissioning of illegal fishing gear encountered in the property. 

b)  Coastal development

The State Party reports only very modest and localized development along the coast, and largely consisting of small hostels for visitors of modest means, with no large tourism or residential development plans underway.  It notes that the main port from which visitation to the island originates is 90 km away, and can only accommodate small craft.  It also notes that eventual development intended for tourism would have to comply with the Ecotourism Master Plan and developments of any type in the property have to comply with additional environmental legislation in that regard.

Though current tourism development pressures appear to be low, previous reports on the potential for much larger developments to occur on the coast immediately facing the property prompted the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to recommend carrying out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in this regard.  The Committee had requested the State Party to develop a coastal zone development and conservation policy to help guide any eventual proposals (Decision 33COM7B.38). No progress is noted in this regard. 

c)  Continued presence of livestock

The State Party reports that removal of livestock (mostly cattle) from the property has been more difficult than expected.  It further notes that the submission of an International Assistance request will be discussed with the executive Council of Coiba National Park, and that arrangements are being made internally for the removal of the livestock starting in March 2013. The work is done according to the Action Plan recently developed by Panama’s natural environmental Authority, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Conservation International. The State Party mentions that livestock may be allowed to remain on the island as a source of meat for the occupants of the naval station.

d)  Naval station on Coiba Island

The State Party informs that an air-sea station in the old Coiba Penitentiary Area is already under construction. It reports that consultations were held for the evaluation of the environmental impact studies and an Environmental Impact Assessment is now being prepared for the expansion of the dock and the restoration of the abandoned penal colony infrastructure. However, copies of the environmental impact assessments were not provided to the World Heritage Centre. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the improvements toward reduction of fishing activities but consider that the on-going absence of a clear management framework and management plan for the SZMP component of the property is a matter of increasing alarm.  The World Heritage Committee first requested a management plan in 2005 at inscription, repeating its request consistently over the past 8 years. Without such a plan, it is impossible to establish whether or not the property’s integrity is assured. They consider that the lack of information should not prevent the State Party from preparing at least a preliminary management plan for the SZMP in which a comprehensive view of the property’s key conservation needs is presented, and preliminary management responses identified. They are also concerned over the absence of a coastal zone development and conservation policy that ensures the cumulative and combined impact of coastal development on the OUV of the property is effectively addressed.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain concerned that little progress has been made since the issue of livestock presence in the property was first raised by the Committee in 2009 (Decision 33 COM 7B.38). They note that the technical capacity and know-how for addressing this issue is readily accessible in the region, where livestock removal has been successfully completed in several other World Heritage properties. They also note that allowing for the continued presence of livestock on the island as a source of food for naval personnel stationed there is not compatible with the property’s protection requirements.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have not obtained a copy of the environmental impact assessments for work being carried out on the establishment of a naval base on the property and remain concerned over the potential impacts of this development on the property’s OUV. They reiterate their recommendations presented to the Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011):

·                The base must not become a source of introduction of new species (e.g. biosecurity measures should be put in place);

·                Personnel should be well informed against trafficking of wildlife;

·                Personnel must not engage in agricultural production;

·                Boundaries must be very clearly marked, ideally with a fence, and as small as possible, with restrictions on movement of people beyond those boundaries;

·                Shore facilities must be built and managed in such a way as to not destroy sea bottoms, and contribute to erosion;

·               The airport must not be permitted to contribute to development pressures, such as tourism and hotels.


They reiterate that the resolution of many of these issues has been pending since the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List in 2005. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint reactive monitoring mission to the property in 2013-2014.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.31

Decision: 37 COM 7B.31 

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.33 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3. Requests the State Party to urgently finalize a draft Management Plan for the Special Zone of Marine Protection, adopt it and initiate its implementation, and to start with the independent Management Effectiveness Evaluation in order to inform the effective management for both Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection;

4. Reiterates its request to the State Party to develop and implement a coastal zone development and conservation policy in order to ensure that cumulative and combined coastal zone development impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value are effectively addressed, and encourages the State Party to develop this policy on the basis of a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the coastal zone’s development potential;

5. Expresses its concern about the potential impacts of the naval base on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and also requests the State Party to take the necessary measures to minimize these impacts, in particular:

a)  Put in place biosecurity measures to avoid that the naval base become a source of introduction of alien species,

b)  Educate personnel to ensure they do not engage in trafficking of wildlife,

c)  Ensure that personnel does not engage in agricultural production,

d)  clearly mark boundaries, ideally with a fence, and as small as possible, with restrictions on movement of people beyond those boundaries,

e)  Ensure that shore facilities are built and managed in such a way as to not destroy sea bottoms and contribute to erosion,

f)   Not permit the airport to contribute to development pressures, such as tourism and hotels;

6. Urges the State Party to finalize the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

7. Further requests the State Party to invite a World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission to consider the state of conservation of the property as a whole, including in regards to impacts from the development of a naval base, and to advise on the development of a management plan and on coastal policy development issues;

8. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a report on the state of conservation of the property, and on the progress made on the issues mentioned above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.