An Integrative Artificial Reef Project for Conservation and Coastal Management in the Colombian Caribbean
Oscar Delgadillo-G and Nirith N. Toro
Abstract.—Multiple coastal development activities coupled with unsustainable management have caused environmental degradation in the Santa Marta region of Colombia. To mitigate this impact, Ecopetrol entered into alliances with private and government institutions to initiate an integrative artificial reef project in Pozos Colorados Bay. To develop the project’s framework, it was necessary to (1) establish context and objectives, (2) design plans and reef construction, (3) strengthen a target social population, and (4) conduct pre- and postdeployment ecological assessments. The achievement of each objective was met with delays and constraints, mainly due to administrative issues and legal requirements. Nevertheless, interventions and interactions among representatives of the 10 institutions involved in the project, as well as the strong commitment of fishers from three organizations in all stages of the process, were indicators of project’s success. Together, these actions and contributions resulted in the deployment of the first six artificial reefs in a 137-ha area. Moreover, recorded changes in biological assemblages before and after reef deployment (richness: 3–37 species; abundance: 30.3–1,615.7 individuals), along with the presence of commercial, ecological, and endangered important species, support the concept of habitat enhancement procedures used here as a strategy for biodiversity conservation with potential for ecotourism activities. The utilization of this technology should be conducted in compliance with concerted schemes for coastal resource management and precautionary principles, directed towards the conformation of discrete marine reserves as future models of sustainable production in sensitive areas.