Upper Bay of Panamá IBA—saved for now, but big challenges remain

© Panama Audubon Society

The Upper Bay of Panama is an area of 50,000 ha of tidal mudflats and mangroves next to the capital city of Panama. It is one of the top sites in the Americas for migratory water-birds, hosting between 1 and 2 million migratory shorebirds. Despite the protection of the site under various regimes, it still suffers from a wide range of threats, the biggest of which was the previous Government´s plan to reduce the existing protected areas to give way to urban and industrial development. This decision was overturned by the High Court in May 2014, however, there is still considerable pressure to develop this area.


The Upper Panama Bay IBA It is one of the most important wetlands in the Americas for migratory waterbirds, annually hosting between 1 and 2 million individuals. The site covers 50,000 ha of mangroves and mudflats next to Panama City, the sprawling capital of Panama. The bay provides essential ecosystem services, (flood defense, carbon storage, pollution filter, fisheries and eco-tourism) to almost 1 million inhabitants of the capital city and its surroundings. The site is designated as a Ramsar Site, a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site and a Wildlife Refuge under national law.

Despite its huge importance and protection status, the Upper Panama Bay suffers from a wide range of threats and has been designated as an IBA in Danger (IBAiD). Threats include urban and industrial development, agriculture expansion, grazing, pollution, land reclamation, drainage and unsustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. The biggest recent threat was the Government´s intention to reduce the boundaries of the protected area covering the Upper Bay of Panama to give way to urban and industrial development. This decision was overturned by the High Court in May 2014; however, there is still considerable pressure to develop this area.

Panama Audubon Society (PAS), the BirdLife Partner in Panama, has been working tirelessly to remove the pressure from Upper Panama Bay and to consolidate its status as a legal protected area in Panama. Activities undertaken to date include preparation of a conservation plan for the site, monitoring, education and public awareness. Now that a new, more environmentally conscious Government came to power in 2014, there is hope for a more sustainable development of this flagship IBA. PAS is planning to work closely with the affected Municipalities, relevant Ministries and a range of other stakeholders to advocate for an ecologically sustainable, integrated land use plan, new laws and increased capacity of decision-makers.


Related Sites

Compiled: 2014   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2014) Upper Bay of Panamá IBA—saved for now, but big challenges remain. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/06/2018