Marine protected areas in Colombia: Advances in conservation and barriers for effective governance

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24 Scopus citations


Attention to marine protected areas (MPA) for conservation and sustainability purposes has increased in Colombia in the recent decades. This shift is a result of the commitment of Colombia with international conventions and treaties (e.g., CBD, Aichi Target 11) and the realization by public and private research organizations of the fast rate of marine biodiversity loss and fisheries decline. This paper presents an examination of the situation of MPAs in Colombia and identifies barriers and opportunities to improve MPA governance. The analysis of documents, semi-structured interviews with environmental organizations (n = 13) and community representatives (n = 56), and focus groups (n = 6) provides a comprehensive understanding of the Colombia MPA system and the challenges for improving its governance. The adoption of international conservation policies and planning tools is driving the increasing numbers of MPAs. Yet, the governance effectiveness of the MPAs, particularly under the current top-down approach, deserves consideration. Barriers and opportunities for improving MPA governance are related to both government and coastal community stakeholders, and include lack of implementation of participatory policies, limited institutional and community organization capacity, loss of self-regulatory fishing practices, and violence among others. Partnerships among NGOs, private organizations, communities and government together with recent afro-descendant community organization and leadership represent key opportunities for fostering meaningful participation of communities in MPA planning/management and for improving MPA governance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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