Written by Bryan Watts
January 8, 2009
The Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) is excited to share news from our partners at Panama Audubon Society (PAS), that the wetlands of the Bay of Panama have been officially designated as a Protected Area under Panama’s National Protected Area System. For more than 11 years, the Panama Audubon Society has been working with global partners, including CCB researchers, to forward the conservation of this internationally important area for migratory shorebirds. The Bay of Panama was previously declared a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention (2003), a globally recognized Important Bird Area (2003), and a Site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) (2005). The status of Protected Area under the Panamanian government gives additional legal framework for long-term conservation to more than 200,000 acres of wetlands in the Bay of Panama.
CCB is proud to have played a part in bringing international conservation attention to the region by providing baseline and follow-up data on Panama Bay’s shorebird populations. In 1997, the Center for Conservation Biology conducted a systematic investigation of the waterbirds in the greater Bay of Panama, funded by the US Department of Defense Legacy Program and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and in cooperation with PAS, contributing benchmark data to the conservation effort. (See CCB’s Summer 2008 article: Fall 2008 return to upper Bay of Panama to reassess migrant shorebirds.) In October 2008, CCB conducted a follow-up survey to reassess the region, finding that several key estuaries in the Upper Bay of Panama supported 98% of the waterbirds detected. (See CCB’s October-December 2008 article: Aerial survey of the Pacific coast of Panama for waterbirds completed.)
CCB’s research efforts in 1997 and 2008 were among several projects and activities around and within the site that furthered its conservation. PAS has conducted many newspaper and magazine interviews, in order to raise the awareness of all Panamanians of the important role the Bay of Panama wetlands play in the annual migration of migratory shorebirds, in protecting local communities against adverse climate-related conditions, and in providing nursery areas for many species of commercially important fish and shrimp, among other ecosystem services.
“This was a team effort,” said Rosabel Miró, Panama Audubon Society Executive Director and Ramsar’s NGO National Coordinator for Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness. “An alliance among Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the government, and individuals for the protected area designation of the wetlands of the Bay of Panama was born and paid good dividends. To all of you our message is simple: let us continue finding ways to collaborate for the conservation and protection of this magnificent site!”