Coral Reefs in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Marine ecosystems are diverse, complex, and fundamental to human populations; however, they are impacted directly and indirectly through human activities and environmental changes. Coral reefs and fish populations are two groups that experience tremendous pressure and ongoing exploitation issues. These stressors primarily include but are not limited to, climate change, pollution, over- harvesting, development (and the associated impacts), and tourism
Internationally, fish stocks have been significantly reduced and exploited while coral reef coverage has declined by roughly 50%, with predictions of up to 90% loss by 2050.
In the Caribbean, these numbers are just as drastic, amounting to approximately 50% coral loss in some areas from 1980s levels, while 50% or more of the commercial fish stock are considered to be overexploited or exhausted, and 40% are considered to be fully drained. Unfortunately, in 2021, it is probable that these percentages are now higher. In Bocas del Toro, Panama, fish populations are overexploited and coral reef populations have declined at high rates, with communities impacted throughout history and still continuing to be affected by various factors and human activities today. The bleaching events in 2020 impacted 90% of the analyzed coral in the interior archipelago and resulted in 50% loss. The Caribbean Coral Restoration Center (CCRC) organization is working to mitigate these declines and improve marine ecosystem health, but the project requires more support at the national and municipal levels in Panama, including regional government leaders, mayors and village representatives, and community members.
The issues impacting coral reefs and fish stocks in Bocas del Toro are often interrelated and require holistic approaches to will build healthier and more resilient ecosystems. Two field-based initiatives that CCRC is currently advocating for are artificial reefs and marine protected areas (MPAs). Artificial reefs and MPAs, when organized and managed effectively, can both help to regenerate biodiversity, fish populations, and coral reefs while simultaneously improving ecosystem health and ecological resilience to stressors.
Through this website, our goal is to convey the urgency and need to tackle ongoing ecological loss among coral and fish communities around Bocas del Toro, show the benefit of utilizing artificial reefs for marine habitat and coral restoration through a case study of the CCRC project, and advocate for the regulated implementation of MPAs and MPA networks around Bocas del Toro.
Map of Central America