Sabina Barrios and three student researchers from McGill University presented visions of the past and future of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge to the Pedasi community on Saturday April 21, 2012. To ensure the protection and conservation of the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, the “Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge” was created in honor of a Pedasieño who was a great defender of nature (G.O. 22,148). This Refuge includes the coastal area and ocean in front of Isla Iguana, permitting only artisanal fishing but prohibiting trawling and large shrimp boats. This Refuge contains diverse ecosystems like beaches, mangroves, dunes and marshes. It is more than 15 ha in size and borders in the North with Purio River, in the East with Isla Iguana, in the South with Punta Mala, and in the West with Purio, Mariabé and Pedasí townships.
Sabina Barrios emphasized the diversity of different ecosystems within the Refuge. “If we don’t protect the mangroves, we will not have fish for traditional fishing practices. Why do we have to protect the mangroves? Mangroves are the reproductive sites of many traditional fish.” She explained the significance of the dune structures to the Pedasi area; “What are dunes? They are mounds of sand. Not all Panamanian beaches and coasts have this advantage. These are a source of pride for Pedasi. The dunes are natural barriers to erosion and hypersalination.”
The coastal zone protected by the Refuge is in large part tropical dry forest. This tropical dry forest is the forest type least represented in the national system of protected areas (SINAP) and is the most endangered type of forest in the nation. Today, this coastal zone is in grave danger due to pressure from touristic development. For this reason, three McGill students, Flaam Hardy, Isobel Phoebus and Tanya Taggart-Hodge, chose to come to Pedasi as a part of McGill’s internship program. In the past three months, they have collaborated with the Ecotourism and Multiservice Cooperative of Pedasi and the Azuero Earth Project to interview local residents and fishermen about current practices and effective management strategies for the Refuge. An arrangement by which the Pedasi Cooperative, the Barrios Family and the Pedasi Community would actively participate in the Refuge’s co-management with ANAM is currently being considered, and thus the McGill students’ research results will inform this process and future management decisions in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge.
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