The mangrove forests of Panama are disappearing at an alarming rate due to development pressures. Mangroves are vital to combat climate change, they are the nursery for countless marine life, protect the coral reef and sea grasses from sedimentation and pollution runoff, provide impoortant habitat for migratory birds, sea turtles and manatees, contribute vital resources for local commnities who depend on the mangroves for life and livelihood. We need to conserve and restore the planet's mangroves and not permit their demise for selfish monetary gains.
We the undersigned persons are aware that the Panamanian Supreme Court eliminated the classification for the Panama Bay Wildlife Refuge Wetland Site in May 2012.The majority of this protected area entered the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in 2003.Most of the site is composed of 85,000 ha of mangrove forest and other wetland areas that stretch more than 100 km from Panama City east to the border of Darién Province on Panama´s Pacific coast.This protected area contains one of Panama´s largest contiguous mangrove forests.The wetlands of Panama Bay are one of the most important shorebird migration stopover sites in the Western Hemisphere. Between 1 and 2 million shorebirds, comprising more than 30 species converge there each fall during their annual migration.We consider that this action regarding the Panama Bay Wildlife Refuge Wetland Site is an unprecedented attack on Panama´s National System of Protected Areas and Western Hemisphere mangroves.
We are also aware the Panamanian officials have stated their intentions to promote parts of the area for coastal tourism and real estate development.These land uses are inappropriate for a coastal mangrove ecosystem.
The coastal wetlands of Panama Bay provide numerous ecosystem services to Panama and its peoples that need to be protected and maintained.They protect the shoreline against coastal erosion and storm events and are also important in mitigating coastal flooding.Mangrove forests also are sinks for carbon and help slow increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.With global climate change and sea level rise, the importance of these mangroves will only increase for Panama in the coming years.
Panama Bay mangroves are nursery areas for various species of shrimp that constitute an important economic resource in the Gulf of Panama and generate significant export earnings for Panama.Mangroves are important centers for biological diversity, and Panama Bay is recognized as a particularly important site for migratory shorebirds.Additionally, Panama Bay mangroves provide livelihoods for thousands of coastal persons in small coastal communities from Juan Díaz to Chimán.
Given the actions of your government and the importance of Panama Bay mangroves, we request that Panamanian authorities:
1. Act to protect their country´s natural resources and fulfill their responsibilities as the stewards of Panama´s National System of Protected Areas,
2. Respect their Nation´s obligations under th Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and
3. Reinstitute the Panama Bay Wildlife Refuge Wetland Site.
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