Supporting the development of Sustainable Blue Economy in Panama through ecosystem-based strategies

How can ecosystem-based strategies such as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) support the development of a Sustainable Blue Economy in Panama? Between 24 and 26 September 2019, theoretical and practical activities organized in Panama City as part of a national training for the MSPglobal pilot project in the Southeast Pacific enabled 37 representatives of national and regional authorities and institutions to expand their understanding of these concepts and develop their technical and institutional capacities.

The theoretical sessions covered topics such as the current situation of the national marine and coastal zones, an introduction to the MSPglobal Initiative, the concepts of MSP – including the IOC-UNESCO step-by-step approach – and Sustainable Blue Economy, as well as stakeholder participation and data and information in MSP.

Participants were then divided into three groups to play the MSP Challenge game, representing planners and different maritime sectors. Putting theory into practice, they were asked to define the three fictitious countries’ vision, objectives, indicators, actions and stakeholders for short and long-term to simulate an MSP process.

“We have to use the knowledge provided to us by international institutions such as IOC-UNESCO to empower the local populations,” said one of the participants.

Each participant then developed individually his or her respective sectorial plans, with current and future conditions, before engaging negotiations with the rest of the players to develop an integrated plan coherent with the national vision and objectives. An additional exercise allowed the planners of three countries to define EEZ boundaries and discuss transboundary coherence between MSP plans placed within the same sea basin.

“The truth is that the game is very realistic and we are having discussions that could happen in real life,” added another participant.

The third day of the training was dedicated to visiting the multiple-use mangroves protected area of Bahia de Chame (APUMMBCH) where participants could identify conflicts and synergies between the different uses and protection of the area.

“They know it’s a protected area but people still come here to dump trash. What we have is a control and inspection problem,” explained a local representative.

Organized jointly with the SPINCAM Project, the course received the support of the Ministry of Environment of Panama and will contribute to the development of a regional roadmap for transboundary MSP and Sustainable Blue Economy in the Southeast Pacific.