The Mega-MPA will soon link the maritime territories of Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica into a massive protected zone in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, sheltering important migration routes for turtles, whales, and sharks.

The Mega Marine Protected Area (Mega-MPA) will include most of the Pacific coast of Central America and extend west to include a broad swath of waters around the Galapagos Islands, which belong to Ecuador.

On November 2, 2021, the four Latin American nations announced the creation of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) initiative, which makes the Mega-MPA a fishing-free corridor encompassing over 200,000 square miles – a space nearly the size of Texas.

“This is the new language of global conservation. Never have countries with connecting maritime borders joined together to create a public policy,” said Gustavo Manrique, the environment minster for Ecuador. “In spite of the fact we’re a developing country, despite the fact we have [one of] the largest [fishing] fleets in the Pacific, we have decided to reduce the fishing effort.”

And not just their own.

In large part, the Mega-MPA is a response to foreign industrial fishing around the seamount ecosystems between Costa Rica and the Galapagos, which has led to species like the scalloped hammerhead shark becoming critically endangered. The area, known as the Cocos Ridge, is a shallow patch of ocean and an intensely biodiverse ecosystem.

Marine biologist and Galapagos expert Alex Hearn calls the eastern tropical Pacific “one of the last bastions of what ocean biodiversity would look like in a pristine world,” and a living laboratory.

In the past year, Latin American countries have taken a global lead in marine conservation, following the guidelines of the UK-lead 30×30 initiative, which seeks to make at least a third of the world’s oceans into protected habitat by 2030.

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