Provided by Google Translate
Provided by Google Translate


A Voice for our Ocean

Op-Ed: Panama, global leader in ocean conservation

By Felipe Victoria Grueso and Joel Baziuk

English Español Français Deutsch Italiano Português русский বঙ্গীয় 中文 日本語

The following is a translation of an op-ed that appeared online in La Estrella de Panama on March 16, 2023, and online and in print in Panama America on March 19, 2023.


Panama is not only the bridge between two oceans, but the Panamanian way of life is also intrinsically linked to the ocean. Although the country is only 772 kilometers (480 miles) long, Panama has 2,840 kilometers (1,765 miles) of coastline, and fish is an important part of the Panamanian diet. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the annual per capita fish consumption in Panama is 16 kilos (35.3 pounds), whereas the average per capita fish consumption in Latin America is only 9.9 kilos (21.8 pounds). Additionally, the fishing and aquaculture sector contributed 245.4 million and sport fishing brought in 170.4 million USD to the Panamanian economy in 2018.

It then comes as no surprise that for more than a decade, the Panamanian Government has been involved in ocean conservation efforts. Furthermore, from March 2nd to 3rd, global leaders, non-profits, academics, and the private sector came together in Panama City for the Our Ocean Conference to find solutions to the biggest issues facing the ocean, such as the plastic pollution crisis, sustainable fishing, biodiversity and climate change, among others.

Even for those who do not live near the coast, the ocean is a precious resource to all of humanity: it contains 97% of earth’s water and produces the majority of our oxygen, and a significant and growing percentage of global food comes from the ocean. For these reasons, it is critical that we care for and protect the ocean to guarantee a more sustainable future and planet for all.

One important step in protecting the ocean is the prevention and elimination of ghost gear. Lost fishing gear is known as “ghost gear” because it can continue to trap fish, even though no one will retrieve what it catches. Ghost gear is the most damaging plastic pollution in the marine environment, according to Ocean Conservancy research. In Panama, ghost fishing disrupts marine ecosystems and impacts those whose livelihoods depend on it. Scientific research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicates that ghost gear is responsible for an up to 30% decline in certain fish populations.

Fortunately, since 2009, the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP) has been contributing to ocean conservation efforts, including collecting garbage from beaches and ghost gear removal projects.

To address the problem of ghost gear, in 2017, Panama was one of the first countries to join the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI). The GGGI is hosted by the non-profit organization, Ocean Conservancy, and serves as the only international, cross-sectoral alliance dedicated to the prevention and elimination of ghost gear. Since 2009, the Government of Panama has removed around 5,000 kilograms (11,023 pounds) of ghost nets from Panamanian waters.

Also, in 2020, Panama City was one of the first cities to become part of another initiative called Urban Ocean. Urban Ocean is a collaboration between Ocean Conservancy, the Resilient Cities Network, and The Circulate Initiative, bringing together civil society actors, academics, financial institutions, and private sector leaders to develop, share, and scale solutions to combat ocean plastic through educational tools, scientific studies, public-private partnerships, and the exchange of best practices.

Almost half of Panama’s population lives in Panama City, and Panama City is responsible for more than half of the country’s GDP. Thus, what the city does has an impact felt throughout the country.

As a member of Urban Ocean, Panama City had the opportunity to study their garbage collection system, collect data and interviews, and find ways to prevent urban plastic leakage from reaching the ocean. During the Our Ocean conference, a Panama City representative spoke about her experience with the program.

In addition, during the conference, as part of this continued effort toward ocean conservation, Panama announced new agreements with the GGGI to increase its efforts to address the threat of ghost nets. This agreement includes the creation of a national action plan to address marine debris advised by the GGGI.

As an inaugural act of these agreements, on the Saturday after the conference, the Government of Panama and the GGGI collaborated on a ghost gear removal event at Taboguilla Island, where 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of ghost nets were removed from the ocean.

We once again extend our sincere thanks to Panama for this collaboration in pursuit of a healthier and more sustainable ocean. We are confident that all these actions by the Government of Panama to protect the marine environment will inspire other countries to join this fight. Addressing this far-reaching, cross-border issue and protecting the ocean will require all of us to get on board.

Felipe Victoria Grueso is Senior Manager, Policy, International Plastics at Ocean Conservancy. Joel Baziuk is Associate Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative.



Trash Free Seas

We’re working on innovative solutions to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in our ocean, threatening ocean wildlife through ingestion and entanglement.

Your gift can help save our ocean

Our ocean faces many threats like the onslaught of ocean trash, overfishing and ocean acidification. With the help of donors like you, Ocean Conservancy is developing innovative solutions to save our ocean.

Back to Top Up Arrow