Cuba names the eastern archipelago of Los Colorados a new protected area
Newswise — Cuba has declared Este del Archipiélago de Los Colorados (“East of Los Colorados Archipelago”) a new marine protected area. This new MPA covers about half of one of the four main archipelagos surrounding the country and is home to exceptional marine life, including West Indian manatees, American crocodiles and critically endangered hawksbill turtles.
The creation of this new protected area is the result of years of collective effort by communities, non-profit organizations, scientists, and protected area and fisheries authorities. This involved a participatory zoning process and building consensus to approve the proposed MPA, a large project supported by WCS every step of the way.
The Los Colorados Archipelago encompasses a chain of 160 keys stretching approximately 140 miles off the northwest coast of Cuba. Extensive reef patches, reef ridges and fore-reefs support key spawning aggregations, including Corona de San Carlos – a critically important spawning site providing fish larvae and supporting the rebuilding of fish stocks in waters as far away as the southern United States.
The new MPA encompasses 72,800 hectares (728 square kilometers / 281 square miles) of coastal marine ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs – ecosystems that provide a first barrier of defense against storms and hurricanes violence exacerbated by climate change. It includes a central 27,200-hectare (272 square kilometer / 105 square mile) “restocking” area called Corona San Carlos Wildlife Refuge, where fishing is prohibited, as well as a series of other areas with limited and regulated activities where some sustainable use of natural resources is permitted.
“It’s inspiring to see people coming together to protect this incredible place,” said Natalia Rossi, WCS Cuba program director. “Understanding that the health of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves is linked to the quality and quantity of fish available was a key step in the process.”
Ecological studies carried out in support of the creation of this new MPA have revealed an incredible diversity of biodiversity, including abundant populations of West Indian manatees found in seagrass beds, river mouths and creeks across the archipelago; green, hawksbill and sometimes leatherback turtles; American crocodiles in the vast coastal mangroves; and several types of shorebirds. The MPA’s many keys and coastal vegetation provide an important corridor for North American migratory birds, and about half of Cuba’s endemic birds are found here.
The creation of Este del Archipiélago de Los Colorados is part of a national effort by local communities, research institutes, local NGOs and environmental authorities to increase protection of the country’s coasts and waters. This MPA contributes to achieving global marine conservation and coastal protection goals based on well-preserved coastal-marine ecosystems. WCS commends Cuba for this incredible achievement and applauds the protection of important blue carbon ecosystems like mangroves and seagrass that increase resilience to climate change.
“Protected areas play a vital role in addressing the interrelated climate, biodiversity and human health crises – all of which are deeply felt in the Caribbean islands,” said Jenny Daltry, Director of the Alliance. Caribbean from Re:wild. “I am delighted that Re:wild has been able to support Cuba’s magnificent collaborative effort to conserve the Este del Archipiélago de Los Colorados, which, at over 70,000 hectares, is now one of the largest protected areas in this region.”
WCS contributions to this marine conservation milestone have been generously supported by Re:wild, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative, Oceans 5 (a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors), and WCS MPA Fund donors. WCS is committed to long-term work with managers and local communities in the eastern Los Colorados Archipelago to establish and maintain effective conservation management.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places around the world through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To accomplish our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its global conservation program in nearly 60 countries and in every ocean of the world and its five animal parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people each year. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
WCS Cuba is committed to protecting the country’s largest and wildest natural ecosystems, including viable populations of key species such as Cuban crocodiles, sharks and rays, sea turtles, corals, migratory birds and island endemics. Cuba’s landscapes and seascapes are essential to maintaining connectivity in the insular Caribbean and beyond and contain the most exceptional and resilient marine ecosystems in the region, supporting local livelihoods and providing climate resilience to millions of people.