'Environmental and social aggression': oil exploration threatens award-winning marine protected areaJeremy Hance
December 01, 2010
Oil plans put wildlife, people, and award-winning sustainability efforts in the Colombian Caribbean at risk.
Typical landscape in the Archipelago. Photo courtesy of Providence Foundation.
"[Planned oil prospecting] is a clear statement of the Colombian government to the community of San Andres Island. The people of San Andres, have no voice or an opinion. Our culture and our wellbeing is insignificant to the Colombian Government," said local Freddy Velez.
Seaflower MPA was established by the Colombian governmental agency known as Coralina with active participation from the local community. The innovative MPA marries conservation with sustainable fishing and harvesting for local people. At the CBD conference in Nagoya, Japan, the Colombian agency, Coralina, beat out over 1,000 other organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, for its ground-breaking efforts in sustainability.
Top: Fishing in the Archipelago. Bottom: Newly hatched marine turtles in the Archipelago. Photos courtesy of Providence Foundation.
However, Mow says that if oil prospecting goes ahead, which includes both on-shore and off-shore oil drilling plans, it would threaten all that Coralina has accomplished. Mow adds that the Colombian government would be breaking its Biosphere Reserve Declaration which "recognizes the importance of the natural and cultural patrimony of the islands and also defends the idea of a sustainable development that guarantees the local population wellbeing."
According to maps seen by mongabay.com, oil prospecting would occur in the North Cays, which is home to some of the largest coral reef banks in the Caribbean, as well as important nesting spot for vanishing marine turtles. Four species of sea turtles are present in the Archipelago: loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtles (Chelonia mydas), and, the world's biggest, leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea). Two of these—the loggerhead and green—are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, while the leatherback and hawksbill are considered Critically Endangered. Two fish in the region are also considered Critically Endangered: the Warsaw grouper (Epinephelus nigritus), the Atlantic goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara), and the stunning largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti).
Seaflower MPA's flagship species, however, is the magnificent mollusk, the queen conch (Strombus gigas), which has been decimated by overfishing and poaching both for food and sale of shells. Currently the queen conch is being raised in pens in the park and then released into the wild.
Coral reef in the Archipelago. Photo courtesy of Providence Foundation.
"We got a different system 'we no waan' that kind of unsustainable behavior here!" Julian Escobar says in the regional Creole English, referring to oil exploration.
"I cannot fathom Colombian Oligarchy's greed," adds another local, Allan Bowie. "This is a clear move to continue to impoverish and exterminate our existence."
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