On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez signed a decree that established two marine protected areas around little-studied underwater mountain chains, one in the Caribbean and one in the Pacific.
In a press release issued by the presidency, Mirei Endara, Panama’s Minister of the Environment, thanked STRI staff scientist Héctor Guzmán and Juan Maté, STRI's manager for scientific affairs, for providing “information necessary for the creation of these marine protected areas and follow-up and support during the process” of establishing the reserves.
The protected areas are the Pacific's Cordillera de Coiba and the Caribbean’s Banco Volcán. These bring Panama's total marine protected habitats to 31,435 square kilometers, or 13.5 percent of Panama's territorial waters. Previously, only 3.7 percent were protected or governed by management plans.
The size of the protected marine areas now surpasses a United Nations agreement stipulating that nations protect at least 10 percent of territorial waters by 2020. Signed by 150 leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit, the United Nations' Convention on Biological diversity promotes sustainable development around the world by establishing standards to conserve whole ecosystems.