The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor - CMAR and Conservation International are granted $16 million in GEF funding for protection and management

June 26, 2023

The project will ensure long-term conservation of 31.3 million hectares in the Pacific Ocean

Brasília, Brazil (June 26, 2023) – Today, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council approved its record-breaking eighth programming budget granting Conservation International USD $16 million to lead an ocean conservation effort in partnership with the Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (CMAR). The collaboration is designed to enhance conservation and protection throughout the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) region. 

In 2004, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama launched the CMAR initiative which linked five existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), four of which have since become UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The CMAR initiative aims to enhance protection efforts of the ETP’s biodiversity through intergovernmental ecosystem-based management with the support of regional partners and nonprofits, including Conservation International.

CMAR has led the global commitment of 30x30 and maintains the countries’ commitment to cement their legacy of ocean conservation in the region. In 2022, CMAR governments agreed with Conservation International to form a new partnership to protect the Central Eastern Tropical Pacific, a region-wide corridor for marine life that’s made up of multiple separate MPAs from the respective countries.

This latest $16 million grant from the GEF will kick off the next phase for the conservation of the Central ETP, focused on the long-term protection of more than 30 million hectares of ocean. The program will prioritize transboundary cooperation by strengthening regional governance, coordinating and growing blue economy investments in the tourism and fishing industries, securing protected areas and enhancing regional connectivity to better conserve migratory species and support collaborative management across the region.

“The Eastern Tropical Marine Corridor is one of the world’s most significant biological hot spots and is extremely important not just to the regional fishing and tourism economy but also to humanity. Individually, each country has committed to protecting 30% of their waters and for two decades Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama – alongside their local and global partners – have worked together to accomplish ambitious conservation goals. This funding further recognizes their commitment and will help enhance the collaboration already underway,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the GEF’s Chief Executive. “I have been working in the marine corridor since 2004 when I was part of a Conservation International expedition to [Costa Rica’s] Cocos Island National Park and it is impressive to see such progress in transboundary conservation. The GEF feels proud of what these nations have accomplished as we work all together to now advance conservation action beyond national jurisdictions into the high seas.”

“Oceans are the largest interconnected ecosystem on the planet; their conservation requires transforming our approach through unprecedented collaboration between governments and across borders,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, Conservation International’s Chief Executive. “Conservation International is a leader in sustainable seascape conservation, working with local partners in nine countries to produce inspiring results for human well-being and livelihoods, marine life and resource security. This project will catapult that progress in the Eastern Tropical Pacific seascape, serving not just to conserve 31.3 million hectares in the Pacific but as a model for marine governance worth replicating around the world.”

There is an increasing need to conserve ocean and coastal resources in the region ­­– the area is developing quickly, facing habitat degradation and destruction, as well as illegal and unsustainable fishing practices. The GEF funding will support the evaluation of a new and innovative cooperation framework for the seascape that will help CMAR countries address these and other issues facing the ETP. The framework will aim to further incorporate blue economy initiatives into local policies and increase access to sustainable livelihood opportunities across the entire region.

“The approval of this project is a key step to support and advance the execution of activities that will ensure the effectiveness of the Marine Protected Areas within CMAR.  After achieving our commitment to protect 30% of our ocean, in alignment with CMAR’s 2019-2024 Action Plan, we aspire to continue generating innovative strategies for the protection, conservation and sustainable use of the marine resources of the Corridor,” said José Julio Casas, Director of Coasts and Seas for the Ministry of Environment of Panama and the Technical Secretary of CMAR.

The Central ETP region, where this work will take place, is one part of the larger ETP ecosystem. The health and connectedness of the entire corridor…

  • is key to preserving biodiversity, storing climate-warming carbon and fueling livelihoods;
  • is home to many endangered species and vast biodiversity, including migratory sharks, turtles, whales, mantas and seabirds;
  • employs over 400,000 people in the fishery industry;
  • is a vital food source, averaging 11 million tons of catch annually from commercial fisheries – about 10% of global catch volume;
  • provides nature-bases tourism opportunities across the region, particularly in the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica; and
  • has over 9,000 square kilometers of mangrove forests along its coasts – equivalent to the land area of Puerto Rico.

Conservation International pioneered the seascape concept and has had a long history of partnership with the countries that rely on it directly.

Read more about Conservation International’s GEF-funded projects here. Additional GEF funding will support forest restoration and conservation across Guinea, Congo, the Amazon and more.

Find the full eighth GEF budget here.

Read more about the CMAR here.  


ABOUT CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL: Conservation International protects nature for the benefit of humanity. Through science, policy, fieldwork and finance, we spotlight and secure the most important places in nature for the climate, for biodiversity and for people. With offices in 30 countries and projects in more than 100 countries, Conservation International partners with governments, companies, civil society, Indigenous peoples and local communities to help people and nature thrive together. Go to for more, and follow our work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitterTikTokInstagram and YouTube.

ABOUT THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY: The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a family of funds dedicated to confronting biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and strains on land and ocean health. Its grants, blended financing, and policy support helps developing countries address their biggest environmental priorities and adhere to international environmental conventions. Over the past three decades, the GEF has provided more than $22 billion and mobilized $120 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 national and regional projects.

ABOUT CMAR: The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) is a regional initiative led by the Governments of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama that seeks the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of marine resources through the implementation of ecosystem management, by establishing joint governmental strategies within the five MPAs that comprise it. All supported by civil society, international cooperation and non-governmental organizations. The five (5) marine protected areas: Galapagos in Ecuador, Cocos Island in Costa Rica, Coiba Island in Panama, and Gorgona and Malpelo islands in Colombia share biodiversity, oceanographic and ecological connectivity but also share problems and threats such as illegal fishing, overexploitation of coastal marine resources, inadequate regulated tourism, habitat loss and degradation, introduction of exotic species and lack of adequate human and financial resources in the MPAs.