This project’s objective was to develop a multiple usage zoning plan for coastal marine and terrestrial habitats and natural resources in the Machalilla National Park (MNP). The proposal was based on identifying priority biological and cultural diversity elements in the MNP, as well as diagnosing areas used by human activities such as fishing zones.
The MNP is located on the southeastern coast of the province of Manabí. It was created in 1979, and covers an area of 67,277 hectares. It is unique among continental Ecuadorian protected areas in that it includes a terrestrial zone and the coastal marine area directly adjacent to it. The terrestrial zone possesses important dry and humid coastal forests as well as a rich cultural history approximately 5000 years old. The marine area of the park is notable for the presence of the only coral reefs in the country’s continental region, its high biodiversity, the presence of species of touristic importance such as seabirds and sea mammals, and for the beauty of its beaches and coastal views.
The evaluation of marine resource use in the area was achieved through interviews, recompilation of secondary information, and visits to fishing villages that accessed MNP waters (Puerto Cayo, Machalilla, Puerto López, and Salango). Fishing activity was characterized by the fishing method, resource usage, fishing zones, environmental impacts of fishing activity, the level of organization of the communities, and the needs and perceptions regarding the management of the national park and the conservation of its resources.
In order to develop the zoning plan for the MNP, we prioritized certain environmental elements of marine and terrestrial biological diversity, as well as the cultural resources that, being under protection, include a large part of the distribution of priority species, zones with high pressures from human use, and systems that have limited representation on the local (inside the MNP) and national levels.
The terrestrial and coastal marine zoning plan for the MNP used as its basal model the previous zoning plan (Management Plan 1998) and used a two-part scheme, in which both areas were divided into four zones:
- High protection zone,
- Special management zone (water resources),
- Ecological restoration zone, and
- Public use zone (in the terrestrial case) and artisanal fishing zone (for the marine area).
The different zones possess different management characteristics and are classified according to their conservation priority and their availability for use by the inhabitants of the MNP area.