In late September, authorities in Panama apprehended a vessel engaged in illegal fishing within the Cordillera de Coiba Managed Resource Area (ARMCC). This effort was the culmination of months of preparation, collaboration, and commitment from various stakeholders, including Panama’s Naval Air Service (SENAN), Ministry of Environment (MiAMBIENTE), Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP) officials, and the Marine Protection Alliance (MPA)—a new NGO partnered with Panama to provide at-sea resources for on-water enforcement. The operation seized over 226 individual marine species, including sharks, sailfish, marlin, dorados, bonitos, and even a turtle. Additionally, 602 shark fins were confiscated, marking a significant step forward in the fight against illegal fishing and illicit shark fin trade.

The ARMCC is a marine protected area that was expanded in 2021 to conserve an underwater mountain range with geological formations, deep sea trenches, and rich biodiversity. It is home to marine mammals and sea turtles that use the area as a migration swimway and feeding area, and over 300 species of fish such as mantas, tunas, and sharks, with several listed as vulnerable or endangered.

To safeguard the ARMCC from the threat of illegal fishing, WildAid’s marine team partnered with Blue Nature Alliance, Skylight, MigraMar, and MiAMBIENTE to provide recommendations as part of a Marine Protection System (MPS) Plan. The seizure in Panama benefited from the initiatives identified while developing the Plan —specifically, the call for using new technologies to identify suspicious vessel behavior, alert authorities, and take enforcement and compliance action. In this case, the NGO partners coordinated with Skylight to provide satellite monitoring to identify unknown vessels within the ARMCC. This information supported the patrol planning of the interagency team onboard MPA’s M/V Sharkwater.

“To truly protect our world’s ocean, a collaboration of governments, NGOs, corporations, philanthropists, and citizens must be achieved.  This recent seizure was a perfect example of such a collaboration and Marine Protection Alliance is extremely thankful for everyone’s efforts. From our gracious donors and the Panamanian government to Skylight, WildAid, and many others who have provided outstanding support to make our first mission a success. MPA is extremely thankful for the support of Skylight, and their outstanding tools. The success of our missions depends on real time-accurate data and Skylight gets it done.”

Chuck Lindsey, CEO
Marine Protection Alliance

Panama’s commitment and partnership with the NGO community sends a clear message: illegal fishing activities and the shark fin trade will not go unchecked.

WildAid’s marine team is proud to continue supporting and advocating for initiatives that support conservation efforts in Panama and across the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR). Through such collaborative efforts, we hope to secure a brighter, sustainable future for our oceans and the species that call them home.

Recently, these efforts were recognized when WildAid’s marine program was selected as one of the 15 Finalists for the 2023 Earthshot Prize, a distinguished global environmental award that celebrates and champions innovators focused on solving our most pressing global climate challenges. Learn more about this honor here.