The Central American coastline of the North-East Pacific hosts a variety of tropical and subtropical habitats including mangrove swamps, productive fishing grounds, and species-rich forests that extend to the water's edge.
Millions of people depend on these ecosystems and their resources for food, construction materials and income from tourism-related industries. In some places, using the resources of those ecosystems constitutes the only economic activity.
Over 70% of the population of Central America live on this drier Pacific side, and so it is here where the environmental pressures are the greatest. Forest clearance, over-exploitation of resources, expanding maritime trade, rapid development, poverty, high risk to the effects of natural events, limited capacity to counteract those effects, serious environmental vulnerability and political conflict are rampant.
The result has been widespread loss of plant and animal species, degraded and eroded soils, destruction of biodiversity-rich mangrove areas and pollution of both coastal and inland waters.
Pollution from the land is made potentially even more damaging in the region because of the numerous sheltered bays and gulfs where the natural dispersal of oil and toxic chemicals such as agrochemicals is limited.
|In February 2002, the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the North-East Pacific (The Antigua Convention) was signed.
The governments also approved an Action Plan detailing how the countries concerned will improve the environment of the North-East Pacific for the benefit of people and wildlife.
Key parts of the plan included: adressing issues of sewage and other pollutants; physical alteration and destruction of coastal ecosystems and habitats; overexploitation of fishery resources; and the effects of eutrophication.
The region is also an important shipping route for vessels sailing from Panama to Alaska, and much of the oil transported from Alaska to the east coast of America transits the Panama Canal or the Laguna de Chiriqui oil pipeline. Moreover, the region still has a troubled legacy to overcome.
In the 1980s, Central America was gripped by a profound political and economic crisis marked by an accumulated 18.3% decline in per capita gross domestic product. The end of the Cold War something over a decade ago may have ended the major conflicts afflicting the region, but its legacy of poverty endures.