Coiba National Park: a site worthy of preservation

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Coiba Island, Panama
Project Photo
Photo: Aerial view of Coiba Island.

AIDA strives to strengthen and promote the creation of marine protected areas as a tool for preserving marine biodiversity. Coiba National Park in Panama is one important marine area we seek to protect because of its incredible biodiversity and the benefits it brings to the surrounding marine environment.

In 2008, Coiba National Park was in danger because the Panamanian National Assembly changed the law that created the park to allow tuna fishing using encircling purse seine nets. Such fishing would not only have impacted tuna populations, but also likely have harmed a variety of sensitive marine species that seek refuge around the islands, including dolphins, billfish, whales, and turtles.

Thanks to the pressure of a coalition of Panamanian and international NGOs, which included AIDA, on March 25, 2009, the Panamanian National Assembly reinstated the legal prohibition on using encircling nets, an important triumph for conservation of the park.

The Coiba National Park was established in 2004 to protect and preserve the special plants and wildlife therein. Many nations in the region benefit from this park in that its islands, coasts, coral reefs and marine areas are tremendously biodiverse. 

Moreover, the park is part of a corridor of marine protected areas that begins with Isla del Coco in Costa Rica, passes by Coiba in Panama and Malpeo and Gorgona in Colombia and ends with the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. In recognition of its great value, Coiba National Park was declared a World Natural Heritage site by Unesco in 2005.

Although the center of the park is the large Coiba Island, the marine protected area covers more than 667,000 acres, including smaller islands and a significant expanse of water. The coasts of the islands are home to a great variety of marine life: at least three types of endangered marine turtles lay their eggs on the beaches, and the waters contain types of coral reefs that exist nowhere else along the Panamanian Pacific coast.

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