A recently published decree adds more than 2,500 meters of inland territory to the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, along the Caribbean coast near the Panama border.
The refuge, originally established in 1985 to protect coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and a range of habitat almost unique to the refuge, is located just south of Puerto Viejo, a popular tourist town.
The decree, published in La Gaceta, the official government newspaper, expands the boundaries to include 2,500 meters inland from the mouth of the SixaolaRiver, along the Panama border, to 100 meters northeast of the CoclesRiver, but could potentially exclude the quickly expanding urban zones of Gandoca, Manzanillo and Puerto Viejo.
The order gives 30 days for the Municipality of Talamanca and the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE) to determine who should manage these regions.
According to a report in the daily La Nación, refuge officials are concerned that the new designation may “open the door” for uncontrolled development.
Edwin Cyrus, director of the regional conservation area told La Nación, “With this decree, the entire Maritime Zone of the park could be considered urban,” he said.
Municipal attorney Paola Mora, however, assured the daily that the municipality is in favor of environmental protection, and would work together with MINAE to find a favorable, conservative solution for park management.