A Critical Reef System Under Threat Has Been Named A Blue Hope Spot

Photo courtesy of Vileria Pizarro

Varadero´s Coral Reef, a dynamic marine ecosystem in the Bay of Cartagena, Colombia, has been declared a Hope Spot by international non-profit Mission Blue. The reef has a paradoxical existence, harboring high coral cover and diversity despite the poor water quality and sediments discharged during the last 500 years by the Canal del Dique, a 45 square mile canal connecting Cartagena Bay to the Magdalena River.

Varadero´s Reef which has drawn special interest from the local scientific community is now being thrust into the international conservation spotlight as a Mission Blue Hope Spot. The persistence of the Varadero´s Reef is currently threatened by a project to modernize Cartagena’s port, not only by the direct damage produced by the dredging of a new shipping lane through the reef, but also by the deterioration of water conditions associated with the operation and maintenance of the channel.

“Hope Spots not only recognize pristine marine environments worth preserving, but also important marine ecosystems that have borne the brunt of human pressures, yet still have a chance of rebounding” said Dr. Sylvia Earle to Mission Blue. “It is cause for hope that the people of Cartagena are coming together in support of the Varadero’s Reef Hope Spot. So, should we race to see how quickly we can develop the Bay of Cartagena? Or race to see what can be done to protect what remains? For now, there is still a choice.”

Current plans to dredge part of Varadero’s Reef threaten the survival of this ecosystem. As a Mission Blue Hope Spot, Varadero’s Reef will now be highlighted by the organization and Mission Blue is dedicated to communicating all successes and continuing threats to the area on a global level. Mission Blue and local partners on the ground at Varadero’s Reef believe that if the area is protected along with other critical marine habitats around the globe, a network of marine protected areas can come into existence that will nurse the global ocean back to health after decades of steep decline. The Hope Spot does not offer the area guaranteed protection but offers reef system a significantly higher chance of being protected from industrial dredging or future threats.

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