US Government support for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor

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On March 22, the governments of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and the United States held a high-level dialogue on the East Tropical-Pacific Maritime Corridor (CMAR) in San Jose, Costa Rica. During the dialogue, Undersecretary of State Jose W. Fernandez and Assistant Secretary of State Monica P. Medina announced the US government’s support for the CMAR. The US government will work with the governments of the four CMAR countries to identify opportunities for US engagement.

Announced by the Presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama at COP26, the CMAR is an initiative to connect multiple existing marine protected areas and create an uninterrupted, sustainably managed biological corridor spanning more than 500,000 square kilometers. The CMAR initiative encompasses a world-renowned ecosystem and will connect the Cocos, Coiba, Galápagos, Gorgona and Malpelo Islands in one marine biosphere reserve.

The CMAR initiative will contribute to the goal of conserving 30 percent of the global oceans by 2030; Preserving migration routes for sea turtles, whales, sharks and rays; Combating marine ecosystem degradation, overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; improving marine habitat conservation; and help protect marine biodiversity from the effects of climate change.

Major U.S. government activities in the eastern Pacific tropical seascape are highlighted below.

Regional:

  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Partnership for Sustainably Managed Fisheries initiative, signed in late 2021, will help train port authorities and improve the capability of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. NOAA and other federal agencies are also beginning to work with partners in the region to strengthen the sustainable management of marine protected areas and the conservation and restoration of blue carbon habitats.
  • The U.S. government has granted Colombia, Ecuador and Panama access to SeaVision, a Department of Transportation-led program that allows partner countries to access and share information to raise awareness of U.S. maritime domains and collaborate with maritime partners.
  • The US Southern Command, in partnership with Florida International University, is working with the NGO Global Fishing Watch to promote awareness, detection and deterrence of IUU fishing in the region and efforts to combat IUU fishing through data sharing and to enable further exchange of topics.
  • In order to implement the high seas embarkation and inspection procedures from the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Organization and to combat IUU fishing in the region, the US Coast Guard (USCG) set the Cutter Stone last fall in Colombia. Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama, increase regional interoperability and patrol territorial waters to prevent illegal fishing.
  • The USCG and the State Department are supporting the Colombian and Ecuadorian Coast Guards with mobile training teams. Mobile training teams provide host nations with a variety of program specialties including search and rescue, law enforcement, boat operations, outboard engine maintenance, marine operations and planning, and IUU fisheries.
  • The Department of Labor awarded a $5 million grant in December 2021 to an International Labor Organization project in Ecuador and Peru to improve working conditions and combat IUU fishing in coastal communities.
  • In FY2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew 6,590 maritime patrol hours with Colombian, Costa Rican, Ecuadorian and Panamanian partners. These efforts resulted in the banning of about 201,450 pounds of cocaine and 49,820 pounds of marijuana.

Colombia:

  • The U.S. Navy installed automatic identification system antennas along the Colombian coast to aid in maritime domain awareness efforts.
  • The State Department is installing a radar and building a coast guard and pier on Gorgona Island, buying $2.6 million worth of boat engines to improve the Colombian Coast Guard’s operational readiness, and funding the modernization of the Colombian Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft.
  • The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act provide annual funding to Fundación Malpelo to protect the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary.
  • USCG provides training to Colombian resident naval officers using International Military Training funds and conducted key leadership engagements with Colombian naval leadership to discuss the USCG IUU Fisheries Strategic Outlook 2021 rollout and implementation plan.

Costa Rica:

  • The Department of State facilitated the donation of 200 vessel monitoring system transponders for the national fishing fleet and awarded two Central American Regional Security Initiative grants totaling $500,000 to NGOs in Costa Rica to promote transparent fisheries governance and data accessibility in 2021.
  • The Department of State and the Costa Rican Coast Guard (CRCG) prepared a ten-year strategic plan that includes the creation of large engineering maintenance facilities on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and the establishment of a Maintenance and Servicing/Supply Training Center for a Small Boat Center of Excellence Depot.
  • Two USCG curriculum advisors, funded by the US Department of State, support the CRCG’s maritime engineering and law enforcement curriculum and specialist training at the CRCG Academy.
  • The USCG supports Costa Rican naval law enforcement operations by embarking ship operators and providing USCG law enforcement detachments serving aboard Costa Rican surface installations. The USCG also transferred former USCG cutters Long Island and Roanoke Island to the CRCG through the Excess Defense Articles Program in 2017, and transferred a third cutter for use on parts in 2018. The cutters have expanded Costa Rica’s maritime coverage.

Ecuador:

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is funding several initiatives for capacity building of the Ecuadorian Coast Guard and equipment repairs, and plans to provide sensors and communication equipment to the Ecuadorian Navy to raise awareness of the maritime sector and help combat IUU fishing.
  • USAID and the State Department sponsor training for prosecutors to prosecute IUU fishing and wildlife trafficking. For example, two Ecuadorian prosecutors from the Galápagos Islands attended a wildlife crime scene investigation course in October 2021 and the Ecuadorian Environmental Police received training on combating wildlife trafficking in November 2021.
  • Since 2018, the US government has provided a Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft and a Boeing 707 with an airborne warning and control system to regularly conduct operations and gather intelligence on illegal activities related to drug trafficking and illegal fishing.
  • In August 2020, USCG cutter Bertholf and Ecuadorian Navy ship LAE Isla San Cristobal jointly patrolled over 3,000 square miles of Ecuadorian and international waters to detect and deter illegal fishing near the Galápagos Islands. In November 2021, Ecuadorian observers embarked the USCG Cutter Mohawk as part of a joint patrol in the Galápagos Islands to combat illicit drug trafficking and IUU fishing.

Panama:

  • In 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) donated a Near Coastal Patrol Vessel, naval maintenance equipment, and spare parts for high-speed interceptor boats operated by Panama’s National Aeronaval Service (SENAN). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs donated equipment to SENAN to support their large ship maintenance facility. The Department of Defense plans to donate a maritime reconnaissance aircraft in 2022, and the State Department plans to donate two interceptors in 2022 and two more interceptors in 2023.
  • Under the Port Enforcement Task Force, a joint operational entity, Panamanian Customs and Law Enforcement agencies and U.S. counterparts, including DEA, HSI and CBP, share their collaborative capabilities in target tracking, inspection, interdiction and seizure of undeclared goods and narcotics expands illegally fished species.
  • In February 2021, the Panama Ministry of Public Safety codified a US-led initiative to design and build a Joint Regional Air and Navy Operations Center (CROAN) and form a Joint Maritime Force (JMF-Panama) to counter narcotics and IUU fishing.
  • The State Department is funding regional NGO MarViva to build enforcement capacity and awareness, with a focus on deterring IUU fishing in the Gulf of Chiriqui.
  • In April 2022, the State Department will host a joint workshop on smart ports and preventing exploitation of critical assets in the maritime sector as part of the Strategic Ports Initiative in Panama.

For more information, see the Media Note on US Government Support for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor

Read more at the State Department

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