Colombia Subsystem of Marine Protected Areas (SMPA)

Published: 25 September 2018
Last edited: 08 November 2022
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Ocean ecosystems are under-represented in the Colombian Protected Area System. SINAP, a group of public-private entities and local-communities, proposed to complement SINAP, stating: “It’s not only about the conservation but also about increasing public awareness of our oceans and to improve the institutional capabilities and well-being for local communities through mobilization and management of financial and non-financial resources for Marine Protected Areas." The solution led to the declaration of 11 new MPAs and the reduction of financial gaps for effective management; at 2015 investments to cover operational costs increased by 10%, and the annual government budget to 100%, the impacts were directly on implementation actions. Today, 13% of Colombia’s oceans are under protection accomplishing and exceeding Aichi Target 11 and SDG14. Enhanced capacities evaluated exceeded 70% expected results, and the methods developed have the potential to be replicated.


South America
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Coral reef
Deep sea
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas governance
Science and research
Sustainable financing
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services




  • Upscale the representativeness of marine ecosystems within the Protected Area System of Colombia and to modify the perception of the importance of marine and coastal ecosystems as providers of environmental goods and services.
  • Increase public and private investment for the protection of key marine and coastal ecosystems of the country.
  • Establishing partnerships with public-private-comunity organizations to coordinate efforts for marine ecosystem conservation.
  • Development of new methodologies for measurement of ecosystem based responses to climate change.



  • Local indigenous communties
  • Coastal populations
  • Marine protected areas administrators
  • Scientists




How do the building blocks interact?

The 4 blocks were the core of the Subsystem of Marine Protected Areas. The communication block was transversal and enabled production of the materials based on the information that come from the other 3 blocks.

The other 3 blocks worked in parallel: Advances and lesson learned were shared during the technical workshops and steering committe at least twice per year.

The institutional block was consider the base of interactions between horizontal and vertical governance squeme and support the financial block.

The capacity development block support the management of the MPA as well as increase the people, logistic resources and projection into the LatinAmerican and Caribbean Region the experiences including interactions between artisanal and industrial fishermen, local communities with environmental authorites, among others.  The new people trained by this block were working into the other blocks. Communitation and Outreach put in place the results from 3 other blocks.  The interaction between four blocks promote the adaptative management of the project as well as the management of MPAs and put in place the topics specially marine-ecosystem services and benefits and financial instruments into the national agenda.


  • 13% of Colombia’s oceans are under protection, accomplishing Aichi Target 11. 
  • More than 8.5 million ocean Ha are under protection (64.4% deep corals, 34% mangroves, 28% seagrasses, 96.5% corals, 22.6% beaches and 32% coastal cliffs), increasing the MPA network of Colombia by ~5 times the expected amount.
  • More than 200 decision makers, MPA managers and sectorial actors have been trained on MPA-related topics.
  • I8,570 Ha mangroves in Cispata-Caribbean have been protected, with the storage potential of ~521 tons of Carbon/Ha and in 3,700Ha have been protected in the Pacific, with ~220 tons of Carbon/ha.
  • We developed a carbon storage methodology and in-situ equations for climate change mitigation with co-benefits for local communities. 
  • 4 business plans for MPAs have been developed (DRMI-Tribugá-Cabo Corrientes, DMI-Cispata, PNR-Old Point, DRMI-Caimanera). 
  • Regional Autonomus Corporations acquired skills to properly and effectively manage and preserve the MPAs. 
  • 66 agreements with fishermen that strengthen the planning of fishery resource uses between artisanal and indutrial fishermen. 
  • 3 financial sustainability agreements, with total investments to cover operational costs increased by 10% and the annual government budget to 100%.



Working in Colombia, I have witnessed the great importance of coasts and seas for humanity, especially for people who live and work directly in these areas. In the INVEMAR, we are committed to the management of marine and coastal areas; we generate knowledge that will contribute to the improvement of the biodiversity, hence in the living conditions of people who depend on these areas.  In Colombia, for over fifteen years, the issue of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has been considered a strategic position, and the advance in the design and implementation of the SMPA is the main instrument of conservation and protection of marine and coastal areas. Under this context, the project "Design and Implementation of the SMPA" has been advanced as key actions to meet the goal proposed in 2012 under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): to have representative, effective and complete MPA systems at regional and national level, effectively managed and ecologically representative. 

In terms of representativeness, Colombia´s MPAs represent about 9% near to the 10% proposed in the Aichi Biodiversity Target to the 2020. The project contributed to supporting the declaration process of four new MPAs such as the Deep Corals PNN that contains about 40% of biodiversity at the edge of the continental shelf of the Colombian Caribbean. The Portete PNN, the Gulf of Tribuga DRMI and the Acandi SF, in which its declaratoration had an important participation and work with local stakeholders, which include local communities, mainly Wayuu Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Through the project, we also strengthened management with users of MPAs, which is reflected in alternative livelihoods for coastal communities that depend on these areas for their food security. An example of this is the achievements in areas such as Cispata DMI, which have a validation process as a REDD+ type project in mangroves. The National Protected Areas Council (CONAP - Spanish acronym) of Colombia considers that the strategy for the harmonization and management in MPAs is the creation and operation of the SAMP. 

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Paula Sierra

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