Activists in Colombia seek to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in the Bocachica access channel entering the Cartagena port cluster. According to the #SalvemosVaradero initiative, the Varadero Reef goes from the north of Draga Island through Isla Abanico and the north of the Island of Barú, in the vicinity of Punta Polonia and with continuous growth towards the south of the island taking into account the defined polygon by Invemar; however, they assure that the #CoralesDeVaraderoHopeSpot area is much larger than illustrated.
This coral was rediscovered 8 years ago and designated by the NGO Mission Blue as Hope Spot (site of hope for the health of the oceans). Likewise, Unesco in December of 2017 analyzed the expansion project of the Bocachica channel, proposed by the Ports of the Bay of Cartagena and, together with the activists determined its importance to recover the corals of other areas even more affected.
The threat to our “Colares Gamines” enduring corals
The “Corales Gamines”, as they are colloquially known, intrigue scientists for their ability to survive despite being submerged in hostile environments. This, in particular, due to their exposure to the turbid waters of the Magdalena River, the constant passage of boats and perhaps the construction of the alternate Bocachica channel which would terminate their resilience.
The construction of an alternative channel for the access of ships to the bay puts the coral reef of Varadero at risk. This project, announced in January 2016 by the then Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras, is in charge of Invías, the Port Society of Cartagena and Contecar, who, in turn, hired the National Development Bank (FDN) for its construction. Essentially, for this channel should be dredged to a depth of 18 meters affecting approximately 34,000 colonies, confirm environmentalists.
The wealth of the marine ecosystem “Corales Gamines” enduring corals
The Invemar and the Ministry of Environment recognized the cartography of the marine area of Varadero, the base for the protection of the Varadero reef.
The study showed that the biodiversity of this area is immense; with 14 habitats (identified by the Institute of Marine and Coastal Research “José Benito Vives de Andreis”) 32 species of stony corals, 39 species of mobile invertebrates, 26 species of octocorals and five black species, in addition to the 102 registered fish species .
“#SalvemosVaradero” the initiative led by Bladimir Basabe, spokesman for the organization; Genesis Ponneffz; the biologist Valeria Pizarro; Rafael Vergara; Julieta Penagos; among others it seeks that the reef and related ecosystems be declared Marine Protected Area (MPA) by the National System of Protected Areas.
Competitiveness vs. Marine Environment
The Bay of Cartagena is a port cluster that brings competitiveness to the country. However, in 2009, a total of 4,553 ships called Cartagena, an amount that by 2018 reached more than 8,000 ships. By having a single access channel, the risk of collapse of port activities could materialize assures the port communications.
- The Access Channel in the Varadero area: discarded by the presence of several coral colonies and the risk of dredging to health for nearby communities.
- Canal in the Bocagrande Creek: could increase up to three times the incoming waves to Castillo Grande, Manzanillo and Tierrabomba.
- Channel traced between Abanico Island and Draga Island: #SalvemosVaradero assures that a large part of the ecosystem will be fragmented while the FDN warns that the impact will be determined by the study delivered to Aqua and Terra, who will determine if it is environmentally viable and has the authorizations including the environmental license.
Meanwhile, it is expected that UNESCO will decide whether to determine the Varadero reef as World and Cultural Heritage, such as the Angel Battery, the Twin Ovens or the Fort of San Fernando in the beautiful Cartagena de Indias. Taking into account what, the UN convention on World and Cultural Heritage also addresses nature.