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Sandra Bessudo  

Areas of Environmental Action:

Conservation, Marine and Coastal Areas 

Summary of Achievements:

Sandra Bessudo has dedicated her life to the protection of Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, now recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. She was responsible for the national declaration of Malpelo as a protected area in 1995, including its marine habitats in 1996, international recognition of the area as a Special Sensitive Zone by the International Maritime Organization in 2002, the expansion of the area from 651 km2 to 8.757 km2 in 2005, and the recognition of the area as a Natural World Heritage Site in 2006. Her dedication and resourcefulness has resulted in a unique inter-institutional management strategy that has proved highly effective for such an isolated area, with the cooperation of both government and non-government organizations, such as National Parks, the National Navy, Conservation International and Malpelo Foundation, along with many other research institutions. For several years, Sandra promoted the idea of having a vessel constantly patrolling the protected area to reduce illegal fishing, and this initiative has recently come true (2006), with the compromise of the National Navy, Conservation International-Colombia, Malpelo Foundation and National Parks. Due to the several achievements of Sandra and her Foundation, National Parks is now considering co-management options between government and non-government organizations for the first time in Colombia for a protected area. Sandra also set the conservation of Malpelo at a regional level, promoting its inclusion as part of the Marine Conservation Corridor, developed by Conservation International and UNESCO under the project "Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape". Sandra Bessudo organized the first research cruise to the area in 1998 with the cooperation of the Colombian Navy and other research groups, and these expeditions are now conducted annually and provide invaluable information about corals, sharks, other fish of commercial interest, marine mammals, birds and others. She was one of the first people to observe the deep-water shark Odontaspis ferox in its natural habitat, confirming its taxonomy through molecular techniques. Sandra also leads an acoustic and satellite project to understand the local movements and migrations of the sharks of Malpelo. All this information represents the basis for scientifically sound management decisions in the Colombian Pacific. Sandra has also worked for the proper development of ecotourism in the area, promoting the site nationally and internationally through diving magazines and shows, studying the effects of diving activities in the area to set the limits of acceptable change, preparing diving operators to understand the natural values of Malpelo and for a better service for tourists, and setting the regulations that minimize the impact of divers on marine habitats. Sandra managed to raise awareness about the importance of the area and its threats through the support of documentary productions, magazine articles, interviews, media press releases and informal talks. Malpelo is now known to Colombia and the world. 


Sandra Bessudo
K 11 No. 87-51 local 4 piso 2
'Colombia '

Email: sbessudo@fundacionmalpelo.org