The Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean

© WWF© / Solvin Zankl / WWF

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETPO) extends along the Pacific Coast of Central America, from southern Mexico to northern Peru, encompassing a surface of 199,665,900 ha of coastal and marine habitats (IOC-UNESCO & UNEP, 2015), and 20,853,000 ha of continental shelf. The Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (OPTO) is considered one of the most productive oceans in the world. It is home to exceptional biodiversity, endemism, and species concentration, including important migratory species such as sharks, giant manta, tuna, and sea turtles that support fisheries production and tourism.


©: / Solvin Zankl / WWF

Being a region of abundant and spectacular representation of marine life, associated with a complex biogeography where numerous ocean currents and winds converge, the OPTO is made up of coastal and ocean habitats, including rich nutrient outcrops, underwater seamount chains , extensive coral reefs, large mangroves, estuaries, rocky coastal cliffs and sandy beaches. Almost 30% of ocean species such as whales, seals, sea lions, sharks, large populations of endangered sea turtles and seabirds depend on the OPTO's ecological integrity and functionality. There are large nesting beaches and sea turtle feeding areas along the coast, including the largest nesting aggregations in Region 5 of Eretmochelys imbricata (critically endangered on the IUCN Red List) in El Salvador (Liles et al., 2011) and Dermochelys coriacea (critically endangered on the IUCN Red List 6) in Playa Grande in Costa Rica. The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) (endangered on the IUCN Red List) is quite abundant in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The main nesting beaches are found on the Colola and Maruata beaches in Michoacán (Mexico), Costa Rica and the Galapagos archipelago (Ecuador).


Threats The main sources of pollution in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETPO) are:

•  Municipal waste (untreated wastewater and garbage)
•  Agriculture run-off
•  Discharges from vessels and port operations, and
•  Industrial pollution from industry and oil operations
•  Plastics seem to be a major component of marine debris in the region

Modification and degradation of natural habitats is caused by a range of human activities, mainly coastal development, tourism, aquaculture and fisheries. Key habitats are coastal wetlands (estuaries and lagoons), mangroves and coral communities. There are about 859,625 ha of mangroves along ETPO coastline, mostly concentrated in Colombia, Panama, Mexico and Ecuador. Mangrove forest cover is approximately 167,272 hectares from Guatemala to Costa Rica.


In 2018, WWF developed a transformational initiative for the ETPO, with engagement of 6 WWF offices. In this landscape, as of 2020, the following activities are taking place:

• Awareness raising focused on stakeholders
• Technical assistance for the development and/or strengthening of sustainable productive activities, such as community-based tourism
• The development, validation, and implementation of a monitoring program with the participation of relevant stakeholders
• Trainings on better sustainable tourism practices, and the development and execution of environmental education program related to protected areas and marine turtle.