Conservation International Establishes Ecuador Azul Endowment Fund to Strengthen Ecuador’s Marine Protected Areas

March 29, 2019

Ecuador Azul will initially fund five MPAs spanning nearly 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres) of diverse marine, coastal, and estuarine ecosystems that comprise Ecuador’s Marine and Coastal Protected Areas Network. The five MPAS include: Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve, Pacoche Marine Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Machalilla National Park, Puntilla Santa Elena Marine Coastal Fauna Production Reserve, and Manglares El Morro Wildlife Refuge. These areas contain a range of biodiversity, from the world’s largest cluster of manta rays to one of the most extensive mangrove areas along the Pacific coast.

“Since 2005, Conservation International Ecuador has helped the Ministry of Environment create seven MPAs, including four of the five that will initially receive resources from Ecuador Azul,” said Luis Suarez, Vice President and Executive Director of Conservation International-Ecuador. “The long-term goal is to have a solid financial mechanism to guarantee the effective management of all of Ecuador’s MPAs, including new ones that Ecuador establishes, and to continue our efforts of conservation and sustainable development in this wonderful mega-diverse country.”

Managed by Ecuador’s Fondo de Inversión Ambiental Sostenible/Sustainable Environmental Investment Fund (FIAS), Ecuador Azul will complement existing public funds deployed from the Ecuadorian government and managed by FIAS, including the Protected Areas Fund (FAP), an endowment fund designed to support Ecuador’s National System of Protected Areas.

“The FAP provides a steady stream of financial support for Ecuadorian protected areas, but only 41 percent of the nation’s MPAs have access to this funding source,” said Ana Albán, executive director of FIAS. “Due to the pressure of human activities and limited investments in these areas in past decades, additional contributions are necessary to improve effective management and conservation in the MPAs.”

Ecuador’s MPAs are not alone in this struggle. A 2017 study published in the journal Nature — by authors including two Conservation International scientists — found that MPAs need adequate
money and staff to reach their full potential.

“We are thrilled that an organization like Conservation International recognizes the importance of channeling much-needed financial assistance to Ecuador’s MPAs to ensure these spectacular natural areas thrive for generations to come,” said Albán.

The annual interest generated by the endowment fund will help to finance implementation of management plans for the five MPAs and cover some operational and monitoring costs.

The principal donor to Ecuador Azul is the Walton Family Foundation. Also, financial support comes from the Global Environment Facility, through a grant from Conservation International as the GEF partner agency of the project “Implementation of the Strategic Plan of Ecuador Mainland Marine and Coastal Protected Areas Network.”

“The Ecuador Azul fund is a testament to the commitment of the Ecuadorian government to ensure the long-term sustainability and management of its marine protected areas,” said Renu Saini, Environment Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “It is truly humbling to see our investment come full cycle and know that these precious areas will be protected in perpetuity.”

“We are pleased to continue our long-standing support of Ecuador’s protected area system through the expanded coverage of the MPA network and the critical sustainable financing needed for effective MPA management,” said Gustavo Fonseca, Global Environment Facility Director of Programs. “We know that effective management is the key to protecting these areas that are important for biodiversity, which will also increase fish stocks in surrounding areas.”

About Conservation International

Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature that people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about Conservation International, the groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign and its series of virtual reality projects: “My Africa”, “Under the Canopy” and “Valen’s Reef.” Follow Conservation International’s work on our Human Nature blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.