WCS aims to support the establishment and/or expansion of at least five marine/coastal protected areas, and a sixth potential Pacific area that could be fast-tracked for protection (San Jose Canyon). Notable conservation targets include Pacific coral reefs, sea turtle foraging/mating areas and nesting beaches, bird rookeries, billfish, 12 species of dolphin and orca, humpback whale, Bryde’s whale, and blue whale.
WCS began working in Guatemala in 1987, and in 1996, established a full-fledged national program. In 2009, through WCS’s long-term partnership with Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) and their Center for Monitoring and Evaluation (CEMEC), WCS supported the national gap analysis of marine biodiversity in Guatemala. This effort led by CONAP and The Nature Conservancy identified priority areas in the Pacific (mainly) and Caribbean currently prioritized for declaration as MPAs. For a decade, WCS has operated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CONAP. WCS works closely with a range of partners, including UNDP, the Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MARFUND), the Association for the Rescue and Conservation of Wildlife (ARCAS), the Foundation Defenders of Nature (FDN), and the University of San Carlos Center for Conservation Studies (CECON), all of which are poised to play important roles in expanding Guatemala’s MPAs.
Guatemala’s protection of coastal/marine areas is currently restricted to littoral zones, almost all of which are the Caribbean sites of Punta Manabique, Rio Sarstun, and the Bahia de Santo Tomas. To date, Guatemala has officially protected less than one percent of its national marine territorial waters, and within most of those protected sites, management is very poor due to extremely limited funding available for protection and management, and inadequate resources for biological research and monitoring.
A one year planning grant was issued to coordinate with partners and develop a full proposal for MPA expansion. The four components of the proposal include: planning; outreach; science and policy. WCS will coordinate with the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), and other government, intergovernmental and non-government organizations to develop a full three-year proposal with funding sources. The partners will then conduct outreach with regional Technical Advisory Committees, government agencies, municipalities, community organizations and fishers to develop MPA proposals and guidelines. As part of the MPA planning process, WCS will conduct a gaps analysis to strengthen the scientific basis for the MPAs. Finally, WCS will work with partners to lead consultations and develop draft MPA legislation.