Positive results from creation of the Coiba National Park

In the Coiba National Park environment, marine diversity is stable, but outside the protected area there is an alarming decrease in several species. The Panama International Maritime University (UMIP) through the Faculty of Marine Science has been monitoring the reef communities in Coiba National Park for three years. This project is funded by the International Conservation Organization, a corporation that is based in the United States and has offices in Panama.

Interesting facts come out of the report. It is stated that, in general, the situation of the fish communities in the park is in good condition (high abundances and diversities) while outside, this resource it is reduced by up to 90% in relation to the data obtained within the limits of the park.

Arturo Ayala Bocos, scientific coordinator of the ECO project indicates that this shows the effectiveness of protection of a natural area, in other words, the establishment of the Coiba National Park has worked for the conservation of this type of resource.

On the other hand, the same researcher points out that the reality with the coverage of the coral is different, since an alarming decrease has been found of close to 30% in relation to the data obtained in this same study in the 2014-2015 season, which should be addressed, according to the marine biologist, José Julio Casas, of the UMIP, who is the general coordinator of the project, stresses that the objective for the monitoring of 2017 was to determine the current state of the reef communities and key species for fishing in the Coiba National Park and compare them with other locations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

The goal is to propose measures for monitoring, management and conservation of marine and coastal resources. To obtain these results, monitoring was initiated with the support of specialists and students of the UMIP, ECO (Ecosystems and Conservation Proazul Terrestre AC), the Ministry of Environment of Panama, the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (Mexico) and the University of Costa Rica, where dives were performed at more than 20 different sites both inside and outside the boundaries of this protected area.

The state of different groups, such as fishes, invertebrates and corals was evaluated by means of visual censuses to interpret the state of this ecosystem from different analyzes. On the other hand, macro invertebrates (crabs, snails, sea urchins) show values that are generally healthy, although there are three specific resources (lobster, cambute and cucumbers) which are at extremely low densities, which may be due to the indiscriminate extraction they have suffered over many years.

Even though they are protected by national law, this resource is scarce and their populations do not show that they are in the process of recovery. Similarly, the presence of a cluster of algae is affecting the health of corals, which has been observed with other factors such as fragmentation and tissue loss being analyzed by Doctor Jenny Carolina Rodríguez of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, who is also part of the research group.

During the presentation of these results to students, managers of government entities and specialist researchers at national level also mentioned was the need to prepare human resources that can carry out these types of studies on a permanent basis. In this regard, Professor Casas mentioned that financing mechanisms are being sought to initiate training programs for technicians who can develop these types of studies and that it is expected that in a short period of time, the highest percentage of these technicians will be Panamanians.

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