Ecuador's coastal and marine area is home to approximately 58% of the country's population. This population lives within 100 km of the coast and is highly dependent upon the coastal and marine ecosystems. Its coastal geography is composed of estuaries, mangroves, mountain systems, beaches, bluffs, islands, shallows, rocky and sandy seabeds and even semi-arid areas: all of which possess tremendous biodiversity and productivity. The convergence of ocean currents creates highly productive rocky seabeds, which are also ideal for the concentration and reproduction of migratory marine species (humpback whales, sea turtles, albatrosses, manta rays, sharks). Ecuador currently possesses 16 coastal marine protected areas (MPAs): nine of which are comprised of estuarine systems and mangrove forests; the other seven are coastal and have a marine protected fringe. Management of current and new protected areas poses a great challenge to the Ministry of the Environment (MAE), as mounting threats will require significant institutional, financial and technological resources. This report analyzes the legal framework, competencies and jurisdictions of all marine enforcement agencies in order to design a cost effective national surveillance system for Ecuador's MPAs. We specifically assessed current MPA surveillance and control capacity at each MPA and designed a blueprint for strengthening enforcement at both the site and provincial level that accounts for factors such as human resources, systematic training, interagency standard operating protocols, vessels, surveillance and communication technology, and long-term costs. With respect to competencies and jurisdictions, the report recommends three priority initiatives that would have immediate positive impacts in MPA enforcement:
1. The MAE must formalize interagency agreements with the Navy and Police as Park Rangers do not possess the power of arrest and there is ever growing security risks at-sea; 2. As the Maritime Police, the Navy must increase their involvement in matters of surveillance and control of MPAs; 3. The MPA Directors must begin to utilize their authority to administer sanctions locally in order to expedite the sanction process and ensure compliance.
The final enforcement system design provides strategic sensor coverage to MPAs, buffer zones and access ways. The strategy combines high-power video cameras and a robust VHF marine and private radio network with the minimum number of personnel and patrol vessels to provide a constant presence and fast response capacity. All CAPEX and OPEX decisions were made in consideration of a highly limited budget, which is currently underwritten by numerous sources. More importantly, we have defined a blueprint of critical steps for the capacity building and professionalization of the Park Rangers, who truly are the core component of the MAE enforcement program.