International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Gulf of Mexico Marine Protected Areas Network (26-27 April 2018)

The Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem (GoM-LME) is one of the most productive LMEs in the world. It covers over 1.6 million square km and is bordered by three countries—the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the references for the strategies used to protect the GoM’s ecosystem and manage its resources.  However, the interconnections within the Gulf ecosystem mean that its MPAs do not function in ecological isolation.  The currents that flow from the Caribbean through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic physically connect the U.S. with the marine environments that lie upstream in Cuba and Mexico.  Fish, sea turtles, whales and sharks migrate between US, Cuba and Mexican waters in the Gulf.  International cooperation in ocean conservation issues is therefore an essential part of protecting the ecological integrity of marine protected areas in all three nations. This importance of international cooperation is what drove GoM-LME project staff and partners to create the Gulf of Mexico Marine Protected Area Network (GOMMPAN), also known as RedGolfo.

Background and Twinning Exchange Purpose

GOMMPAN was first announced in December 2017 in Cozumel, Mexico at a workshop organized by CubaMar, a project of The Ocean Foundation in collaboration with the GoM-LME Project. Mexican, American and Cuban MPA managers and government officials were in attendance. GOMMPAN’s goal is to create a set of key products that provide a fundamental understanding of what marine habitats and biological communities the network sites protect, and an expert assessment of the condition of those habitats and communities by those that best know them.  Through these products, MPA managers and other decision-makers will receive a toolkit for the long-term evaluation and improvement of MPA ecosystem and management performance that can be applied throughout the Gulf of Mexico. The first GOMPANN sites are Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano and Parque Nacional Arrecife Alacranes in Mexico, Parque Nacional Guanahacabibes in Cuba, Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuaries in the US. GOMMPAN will continue to expand to include other sites in the three countries as the project advances. GOMMPAN is the first trinational MPA network in the Gulf of Mexico.

In order to fulfill the goals of GOMMPAN and support the GoM-LME Project (2014-2019), GEF IW:LEARN provided travel assistance for an exchange organised by the GoM LME project which brought together scientists, managers, government officials, and environmental lawyers from US, Cuba, and Mexico in Merida, Mexico, April 26-27, 2018. The workshop had ministerial level representatives to officially sign the GOMMPAN agreement and put it into action. An additional benefit of this exchange was for these stakeholders within the GOMMPAN MPAs to gather and exchange and generate knowledge regarding challenges and solutions to MPA management, build capacity, and create partnerships across countries and stakeholder groups. The meeting took place in conjunction with CubaMar’s Trinational Initiative platform. The meeting convened experts in marine protected area policy as well as benthic and pelagic science to understand 1. How this new MPA network can best be incorporated into existing management schemes in all three countries and 2. how marine connectivity impacts decision making and policy making around the GOMMPAN Marine Protected Areas.

"We had the signature of a Work plan for the Gulf of Mexico Marine Protected Areas Network, as part of the Work they will do between CNAP (Commission of Protected Areas CUBA) and CONANP (National Commission of Protected Areas ) Mexico.  We also witnessed the signature of a letter of intent between SEMARNAT (ministry of Environment in Mexico ) and the Ocean Foundation in order to help with the GOM LME project.  We are very thankful GEF IW:LEARN helped to make this possible, getting all actors together." -Alejandra Navarrete (Former GOM LME Project Coordinator)

Figure 1. Facebook post from Mark Spalding (President of the Ocean Foundation) who is captured signing the letter of intent with Rodolfo Lacey, Undersecretary of SEMARNAT indicating support to the GEF funded Gulf of Mexico LME project. Credit. Alejandra Navarette.

An original article on the event was published by the the Ocean Foundation and can be found here.  A documentary by Shireen Rahimi about the meeting hosted by CubaMar when RedGolfo was made official can be accessed here. This documentary includes commentary from the GEF funded GoM LME project. 

Significant co-finance was brought in by CubaMar/The Ocean Foundation, which raised a total of $20,750 for the Trinational Conference from the following entities which was used for accomodations, transportation, field visits and airfare:

  • $5,000 from Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies
  • $5,000 from Environmental Defense Fund
  • $4,000 from The Nature Conservancy
  • $750 from Mote Marine Laboratory
  • $3,000 from Christopher Reynolds Foundation
  • $3,000 from JetBlue Airlines

Post-Twinning activities

After the meeting held in Merida, a special follow up on the RedGolfo Atlas and a Webinar took place in July 2018, demonstrating continued collaboration under the Trinational initiative. The National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) created in 2018 the Marine-Coastal Information and Analysis System (SIMAR), a new technological development (based on a platform interactive web in the cloud) that integrates, in a data acquisition system (oceanic, atmospheric and spatial), various products derived from satellite images, on-site monitoring, and models, together with a geospatial information service. By integrating them, it derives in several early warning and information and analysis systems for the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the tropical north-eastern Pacific, covering an area of ​​20,489,601 km2, corresponding to 6,401 x 3,201 pixels (1-km). On the geoportal, special acknowledgement is given to the GEF and the GoM LME project for its collaboration in the initiative. 

Figure 2. Acknowledgement given to the GEF and the GoM-LME project for their support on the Marine-Coastal Information and Analysis System (SIMAR) initiative. 

All the documents related to this twinning activity, as well as the twinning experience note developed by SEMARNAT, may be downloaded using the links below: