The Inter-American Development Bank approved a $4 million grant from the IDB–Global Environment Facility (GEF) to advance marine and coastal biodiversity conservation in Ecuador by supporting a protected areas network and helping implement a national action plan for the protection of sharks.
The Government of Ecuador will provide an additional $4.3 million in local counterpart funds, taking total funding for the project to $8.3 million. These funds will be complemented by $13 million in associated financing from the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) project "Partnerships for Biodiversity Conservation in Ecuador’s Pacific Lowlands and Coast."
Ecuador's Environment Ministry will use the funds to strengthen 13 existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and create two new ones, and to shore up the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (PAT-Ec). The Plan was adopted in 2006 in order to address the problem of declining shark populations, which is particularly evident among hammerhead sharks.
The project is expected to cut the total annual landings of endangered sharks from the current 39,000 to 31,000 and to substantially reduce the incidence of accidental shark by- catch. Ecuador's nearly 60,000 artisanal fishermen, operating from 138 localities distributed along the coast, will be active participants in the conservation effort.
In order to help achieve these goals, 50 scientists and managers will be trained, while data will be compiled and guidelines for conservation and management of endangered species will be published.
The two new MPAs will take the total area under protection from 332,000 ha to 400,000 ha. Under the project, all MPAs are expected to produce management plans and maps showing their precise limits, up from only four that have do so until now.
The MPAs will also be integrated into a nationwide network, and their scope will be expanded from the prevailing focus, which emphasizes mangrove conservation, to include other ecosystems such as rocky reefs, estuaries, sandy bottoms and sea mounts. Additionally, in order to improve onsite surveillance and enforcement, the MPAs will be included in the Coast Guard’s vessel monitoring system and regulations will be updated to ensure that sanctions are applied to infractions.
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