By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM (

EBM is a journey, not a destination. But even significant journeys can be undertaken by taking small, purposeful steps. In the San Andrés Archipelago of Colombia, resource management has moved deliberately toward EBM via a series of discrete regulatory and policy moves.

The 300,000-km2 archipelago is located halfway between Central America and Jamaica, and is home to the second largest barrier reef in the Caribbean. Colombia set the stage for good governance of this vast area of reefs and islands by forming CORALINA – a decentralized, quasi-governmental regional corporation to oversee many aspects of environmental management.

CORALINA took its first step toward integrated management by establishing a biosphere reserve under UNESCO. This multiple-use land and sea area had a focus on people and biodiversity together – incorporating communities within the reserve but making the marine life on which those communities depend the centerpiece of management efforts.

More recently, CORALINA worked with residents to declare a zoned marine protected area spanning the archipelago's waters. The 65,000-km2 Seaflower Marine Protected Area was designated in 2005, and steps have been taken since then to establish the regulatory framework for managing commercial fishing, tourism, and residential uses of the reefs.

While using a marine protected area to advance EBM is not uncommon, CORALINA's process was exemplary: bringing in all user groups, establishing a flexible yet comprehensive system for management, coupling operational management with education and awareness-raising, and exploring mechanisms to ensure financial sustainability for the MPA.

The purpose of CORALINA's financial sustainability planning process has been to identify funding sources and financing mechanisms to provide long-term income to cover the recurrent costs of the Seaflower MPA (e.g., personnel, maintenance, surveillance and patrolling, education, and monitoring). According to a 2005 report by consultant Tom van't Hof, the approach included:

  • Evaluating a wide range of financing options;
  • Conducting a socio-economic analysis of the MPA's main stakeholders;
  • Consulting with stakeholders on the feasibility and acceptability of selected financing mechanisms;
  • Estimating the annual operational costs of the MPA;
  • Calculating the potential revenue from selected financing mechanisms; and
  • Building consensus among stakeholders about the implementation of selected mechanisms.

CORALINA is now working with local governments, NGOs, and the InterAmerican Development Bank to put the selected financial mechanisms in place. One such mechanism is a payment-for-ecosystem-services scheme, just established, to create investment opportunities for the private sector in the management of the Seaflower MPA.

Management authority plays a significant role in the San Andrés EBM case. CORALINA not only possesses the ability to monitor the condition of all ecosystems (land and sea), but may also develop environmental policies and regulations such as development setbacks, zoning, and waste management. In addition, it holds the authority to prosecute individuals and the private sector for infractions. These abilities to influence coastal management, freshwater use and watershed management, environmental quality/pollution control, and virtually all sectors that affect the sea has laid the foundation for continual progress toward true EBM.

The San Andrés Archipelago is not without substantial challenges. Unemployment is high in the general population (approximately 40%, according to CORALINA advisor Marion Howard) and average income remains relatively low by Colombian standards. Yet when CORALINA launched its EBM plans a decade ago, the population showed such a strong understanding of the value of their marine resources that they demonstrated a willingness to contribute an average of almost US $5 per month to coral reef conservation.

Under CORALINA Director Elizabeth Taylor's excellent leadership, San Andrés is poised to take its next important step toward full-scale EBM: amending the management regime so it is truly adaptive, with periodic rezoning and regulatory improvements. All this, with a very limited budget, small staff, and a huge area to manage, makes CORALINA's steps toward EBM a demonstration model for aspiring EBMers everywhere.

BOX: Online sources for case studies on marine and coastal EBM

As the marine EBM field matures, a growing number of case studies on implementation are appearing. Here are three free sources with multiple case studies on marine and coastal EBM programs:
This is the case studies page of the EBM Tools website. It offers links to several EBM programs that have prominently featured planning tools, as well as to various case study compilations that are also available online.
Operated by The Nature Conservancy, this website aims to guide managers on the use of common tools for regional planning. It provides several brief descriptions of EBM programs in progress, with links to more detailed information.

Implementation of Ecosystem-Based Management in Marine Capture Fisheries (
This 2007 report by WWF provides 12 detailed case studies on ecosystem-based fisheries management from around the world.