The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development is the national executive ministry of the Government of Colombia in charge of formulating, implementing, and orienting environmental polices to ensure the sustainable development of the country. It is the lead institution of the National Environmental System, which is composed of 33 regional autonomous and seven large city enviromental authorities (responsible for the execution of the environmental policies at the regional and local level), the National Environmental Licensing Authority, the National Natural Parks System, and five research institutes (one with coastal and marine emphasis).
The only South American Country with both Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, Colombia has a total coastline of approximately 3,000km and an extensive marine area totaling 928,660km2. These marine and coastal areas host a diverse range of ecoystems including coral reefs, mangroves, beaches, seagrass beds, wetlands, seamounts, and other oceanic features. In 2011, Colombia’s National Development Plan (Law 1450/2011) established a legal framework for the conservation of marine ecosystems. In specific, Article 207 of the National Development Plan calls for the conservation of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass ecosystems by establishing a prohibition for mining, oil exploration and exploitaion, as well as other activities on coral reefs and mangroves and calls for the development of integrated coastal zone management plans by the regional environmental authorities. In charge of leading these marine and coastal conservation initiatives is the directorate of Marine, Coastal and Aquatic Resources of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the coastal regional autonomous environmental authorities, which have marine jurisdiction.
The conservation and sustainable management of oceanic and coastal zones is driven by the National Environmental Policy for the Sustainable Development of the Ocean, Coastal Areas, and Islands (PNAOCI) and the National Policy for the Integrated Management of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (PNGIBSE). With one of the objectives being the development and implementation of conservation, rehabilitation and/or restoration measures for marine and coastal ecosystems, these national policies are committed to ecosystem based programs focusing on coral reef conservation. In order to better document the extent and health of Colombia’s coral reefs, since 1998, there has been ongoing monitoring, research, and mapping of Colombia’s coral reefs by the Coral Reef Monitoring System of Colombia (SIMAC) which was established by INVEMAR, a marine and coastal research institute of the National Environmental System and a member of the Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity network (CARICOMP). Additionally in 2008, to create nationwide awareness, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development declared Decemeber 5th as a National Coral Reef Day (Resolution 1579).
As a means of conserving Colombia’s coral reefs and their related ecosystems, numerous National Nature Parks and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been established in both the Caribbean and Pacific in strategic areas with prevelent coral reef ecosystems. One such protected area is the Seaflower MPA, which is located in the biodiversity “hotspot” of the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina in the Southwestern Caribbean. The MPA was offcially declared in 2005 and is part of the larger Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, which contains 76% of Colombia’s coral reefs and is recognized as one of the most extensive, productive coral reef ecosystems in the Americas. While the Seaflower MPA is the largest MPA in the Caribbean and one of the most world renowned and recognized, the protection and conservation of Colombia’s coral reefs extends beyond this area as numerous other MPAs and National Natural Parks, such as the Archipelago of El Rosario and San Bernardo, Gorgona National
￼Natural Park MPA and the newly created Deep-Water Coral National Park, also host diverse coral reef ￼ecosysytems.
Last Updated: 11 September 2016