[Coral-List] CORALINA takes legal action to block oil exploration in the Seaflower MPA, Colombia

Marion Howard mwhoward at brandeis.edu
Mon Feb 21 12:30:31 EST 2011

Hi Coral Listers,

We could use your help at CORALINA, Seaflower MPA, on the threat of
oil exploration inside the MPA. See the announcement below - if you
wish, feel free to send to anyone concerned with issues of ocean
conservation, indigenous rights, etc; and sign the petition of a local
grassroots NGO (link at the end).

Any relevant studies, papers, or contacts folks could send would be

Thank you.

Marion W. Howard
Senior Lecturer in Sustainable International Development
The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Brandeis University
Waltham, Massachusetts 02454   USA
E-mail mwhoward at brandeis.edu
Tel. 781-736-3794    Fax 781-736-8366

Environmental Advisor
San Luis Road, The Bight
San Andres Island

CORALINA takes legal action to block proposed oil exploration in the
Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area, Colombia

The regional Colombian government agency, CORALINA, that established
and manages the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area
(MPA), has submitted an “Accion Popular” against Colombia’s National
Agency of Hydrocarbons (ANH) to halt leases to Reposol-YPF and
Ecopetrol to begin oil exploration inside the borders of the Seaflower

An “Accion Popular” is a legal instrument granted to citizens by
Colombia’s National Constitution (Art. 88) that allows them to seek
protection of collective rights and interests related to their
homelands, environment, public safety, health, etc. The legal action
was presented to the High Tribunal by CORALINA’s general director,
Elizabeth Taylor-Jay on Wednesday, February 16.

Seaflower -- located in the Archipelago of San Andres, Old Providence,
and Santa Catalina in the Southwestern Caribbean -- has been a member
of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2000 and is on
the tentative list of proposed World Heritage Sites.

The largest MPA in the Caribbean and among the largest in the world,
it spreads over 65,000 square kilometers (6.5 million hectares) and
encompasses 76 percent of Colombia’s coral reefs and the most
extensive open ocean reef systems in the Caribbean; more than 2,000
km2 of productive coral reef ecosystems with atolls, barrier reefs,
fringing reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and lagoons.

The MPA is known to be exceptionally rich in marine biodiversity for
the region -- to date more than 407 species of fish, 48 hard corals,
54 soft corals, 130 sponges, 157 birds, and many other significant
species have been identified, along with 192 IUCN red-listed species
including sea turtles, marine mammals, hydrocorals, and others. The
archipelago was declared a Significant Bird Area by BirdLife
International in 2004 and is part of the western Caribbean
biodiversity “hotspot.”

Besides its unique environment, San Andres also has a long social
history distinct from that of Colombia. The descendants of the
original inhabitants, now called raizales, are recognized as an
indigenous people internationally and protected as an ethnic minority
nationally. The Seaflower MPA was established in 2005, with support
from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and resulted from a
uniquely participatory process between CORALINA and the local
community. This innovative MPA protects the livelihoods and tenure of
the indigenous people, integrating conservation with sustainable
fishing, harvesting, and locally run tourism.

CORALINA’s work in establishing Seaflower was recognized in 2008 by
IUCN as one of the 60 most significant approaches to conservation that
will influence the environment in the coming century. Last October the
Seaflower MPA took top honors as the initiative that best realized the
goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the
Conference of the Parties (COP 10) in Nagoya, Japan, beating out more
than 1,100 other organizations around the world, both governmental and
non-governmental, for its ground-breaking efforts in sustainability.

In addition to conserving marine biodiversity and ecosystems, "the
intention is to open an umbrella of possibilities of livelihoods,
including low-impact aquaculture, and some alternatives on land such
as iguana farming which is done by the fishers in some places, and
also creating interpretation trails [for tourism]," Taylor-Jay, told
the BBC at COP 10 after the award was announced.

The Popular Action claims that the oil leases violate the Convention
on Biological Diversity, which the Colombian Congress ratified in the
National Law 165 of 1994, as well as the rights of the indigenous
people of the archipelago, whose rights are protected by the National
Constitution (Art. 310) and by international instruments including ILO
Convention 169 that protects tribal and indigenous people, ratified by
Colombia in National Law 21 of 1991, and the recent United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by Colombia
in April 2009. The participatory process to establish the Seaflower
MPA was presented by invitation last year at the UN Ninth Permanent
Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City.

Most residents of the islands are strongly opposed to the oil
exploration, along with local and national non-governmental
organizations that have publicly rejected the leases, including the
archipelago’s Old Providence Foundation and Colombia’s Fundacion ICRI
(International Coral Reef Initiative).

To sign the Old Providence Foundation’s petition against the oil
exploration, go to:

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