Sunday, November 25, 2012

San Andres' Other Big Loser: The Environment?

The International Court of Justice's ruling last week slashing Colombia's territorial waters around the San Andres Archipelago was a disaster for the islands' fishermen, whose fishing opportunities appear to be drastically curtailed.

Ecotourism in San Andres' biosphere
reserve. (Photo: Changemakers)
But the environment will also suffer if Nicaragua does not continue Colombia's conservationist policies in maritime areas the court transferred to Nicaraguan control. Those areas include 54% of the  349,800 square kilometer Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area, which surrounds the islands. According to the San Andres government, it constitutes the largest marine protected area in the Americas, with more than 400 fish species, 54 soft coral species and 48 hard ones, 130 sponge species, 4 turtle species and 157 species of birds, among lots of other biodiversity.

 In addition, a year ago Pres. Juan Manuel Santos promised to ban oil drilling around the islands.

San Andres fishermen. They may find their
livelihood devastated in multiple ways.
Will Nicaragua be a good steward of its maritime environment (assuming that Colombia recognizes the court's ruling)? Unfortunately, Nicaraguan officials' initial remarks after the court decision have been about exploiting the region's resources, including undersea oil.

The answer is important not only for the region's biodiversity, but also for the fishermen's livelihoods. Fish do not recognize political frontiers, and destroying their breeding habitat will destroy fish populations throughout the Caribbean.

Doomed world? Fish swim in the Seaflower reserve. (Photo:

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Esben said...

Some sort of condition-set about exactly the environment would suit the court and show resolve on behalf of our future. But that's not 'fair' so the Nicaraguans will probably use their drilling rights to the fullest. Is it just a prejudice or do they need the money more than anything?

Miguel said...

I'm sure that Nicaragua, which is a very poor country could use the money. However, whether the Nicaraguan gov't would use it well or not is another issue.

But we also should not convict them before the fact. Maybe they will set up their own protected area.