An effective way of attending the different problems that threaten the Mesoamerican Reef is through the development of an interconnected and functional regional network of coastal and marine protected areas (MPAs). If properly managed, the resulting network, the reef's backbone, will protect fish populations, diverse habitats, spawning aggregation sites, aquatic resources, forest resources, recreation opportunities and development and growth possibilities for the ecoregion.
Well-managed protected areas regulate access to fisheries, protecting both target and non-target species and allowing populations to either recover or, at a minimum, maintain sustainable levels required to support community livelihoods. Additionally, the inclusion of coastal areas within a regional network preserves sea grass beds and mangroves, providing critical reproductive habitat for endangered manatees, turtles, and other species. This coastal habitat also curbs land erosion and filters incoming water, serving as an effective buffer zone between the watershed and the reef. Finally, within the framework of protected areas we are able to reduce the impacts of climate change by applying proper management practices and protecting resilient reefs.
Objective The objective of the program is the establishment and strengthening of a functional network of priority coastal and marine protected areas in the MAR Region to promote adaptation to climate change, conservation of natural resources and ecological processes, permanence of connectivity functions and ecosystem services, and sustainable use of resources.
To select the priority areas, MAR Fund facilitated a process that included the participation of different actors from the four countries. The methodology that was designed for this purpose was applied initially through four workshops to obtain the national priorities. These results were then analyzed at a regional workshop, in which the number one priorities for the region were defined. The initial network of 14 areas are included in the map below.