In 2006, the project “Feasibility study for the creation of a coastal marine reserve in the province of Esmeraldas” (ESMEMAR) was developed with the general objective of analyzing the current situation of the coastal marine/intertidal zone between the towns of Muisne and Esmeraldas. Previously there had been no efforts to compile cartographic information of this area for the goal of mapping ecosystems and habitats. Accordingly, one of the main objectives of the project was to establish digital maps that would permit this characterization of marine zones, as well as identifying and delineating the range of the principal species of the area. Based on this mapping information, we were able to infer information regarding threats and resource use in order to evaluate conservation states and the future possible success of various management and conservation schemes for the region. The results served as the database for the development of the conservation proposal for the Galera-San Francisco-Muisne marine coastal area, and finally, the declaration of the “Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve,” on the 31st of October, 2008, by the Ministry of the Environment.
The study area lies along the coastal province of Esmeraldas, between the mouth of the River Esmeraldas (N 0° 59’ 54,1’’ – W 79° 38’ 37,7’’) and the mouth of the Muisne River N 0° 37’ 3,9’’ – W 80° 02’ 01,9’’). The zone extends from the coastal profile out to 50m in depth. It encompasses 107.25 km of coastline and 106,785 hectares. The seafloor of the subtidal ecosystems in the area were characterized using the Side Scan Sonar (IMAGENEX SPORTSCAN; 330/800 kHz) and with an underwater camera (Atlantis Underwater Video Systems) and through direct observations using SCUBA, dredges (WILDLIFE SUPPLY COMPANY) and underwater photography.
Between June and October of 2006, over 14,610 hectares of ocean were covered using Sidescan Sonar. The total distance of transects was 795.7 km. Additionally, seafloor types were verified at 136 different points with the help of a submarine camera, dredging, and diver surveys.
The majority of the study area (64%) was made up of soft bottom, like lime, mud, and sand, and constituted a total area of 32,490.5 hectares. Hard substrates, on the other hand, such as rock or rubble, were rare (5%) and covered a total surface of 5,611.1 hectares. Finally, mixed substrates (hard surfaces interspersed among soft bottoms) covered 30% of the total study area, corresponding to a total surface of 32,490.5 hectares.
– MAP: Proposal for the conservation of a coastal-marine protected area to the south of the Esmeraldas province. Project ESMEMAR (2,61 MB, pdf).Also available in the PUBLICATIONS section.