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Cablegate: Environmental Conference Highlights Soft Power Of

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIS SENV ETRD MASS MCAP PGOV CO
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENTAL CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS SOFT POWER OF
U.S. MILITARY

1. (U) Summary: SOUTHCOM sponsored its second annual Marine
Environmental Protection Conference in Cartagena from August
31-September 4. The conference introduced the Colombian Navy
to a wide range of marine environmental enforcement issues
and generated productive discussion among the participants:
Colombian Navy, NGOs, government ministries and several USG
agencies. One notable success, conference participants
collaborated on an outline for a marine environmental
enforcement operations manual for use by Navy instructors and
officers in the field. End Summary.

PRODUCTIVE INTERACTION AMONG KEY PLAYERS
----------------------------------------

2. (U) SOUTHCOM, with assistance from Embassy Bogota's
Economic Section, scored its second successful environmental
protection conference in Colombia, August 31-September 4.
The event in Cartagena succeeded in opening a space for
dialogue among the Colombian military, government, and NGOs
on strategies for protecting the country's marine resources.
More than 100 Colombian participants from the Navy, NGOs, and
government ministries attended. Participants highlighted the
need for continued training and capacity building for the
Colombian Navy in enforcing Colombia's marine environment
laws. Presenters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS), and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) provided best
practices in marine enforcement techniques. EconCouns
highlighted the U.S. commitment to the environment and the
economic importance of Colombia's fishing trade.

NASCENT ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS
-----------------------------------------

3. (U) The Colombian Navy has broad enforcement authority
of Colombia's maritime laws, but has focused nearly all of
its efforts and training on anti-drug operations. The burden
of enforcing environmental laws has fallen to NGOs and local
governments, who have limited resources and capabilities for
enforcement. The Colombian Coast Guard, a subset of the
Colombian Navy, is a temporary assignment for most Navy
officers. These factors plus the rotational nature of
Colombian Naval assignments has resulted in little
institutional knowledge of environmental law enforcement
practices. This year's conference targeted a higher level
group of officers than last year, including port captains, to
heighten the visibility of environmental issues in the Navy.

4. (U) Fisheries enforcement authority is divided among
many agencies but is largely in the hands of the Colombian
Agricultural Institute (ICA), a part of the Ministry of
Agriculture. ICA personnel are extremely knowledgeable on
fishery issues but have little capability to enforce or
manage their fisheries. ICA representatives at the
conference helped organize the daily working groups.

CONFERENCE TAKEAWAYS
--------------------

5. (U) Conference topics featured: fishing and wildlife
trade regulations, environmental enforcement program
management and best practices, vessel boarding techniques,
oil spill containment, and reducing contaminants and by-catch
through the use of mechanisms like Turtle Excluder Devices
(TEDs). (Note: NOAA provided training on the use of TEDs to
local officials the week prior. End Note.) During the
conference, participants split into working groups to develop
an outline for a handbook for use by the Colombian Navy, and
discussed what future conferences should include.

6. (SBU) Local presenters highlighted illegal fishing as
the biggest threat to the sustainability of Colombia's
fisheries, especially on the island of San Andres (located
off the coast of Nicaragua) where the maritime boundaries of
a number of Caribbean countries intersect. A representative
from the San Andres Governor's office estimated that up to 50

percent of all fishing in San Andres is illegal, much of
which he blamed on Nicaraguan and Dominican vessels.

WAY FORWARD
-----------

7. (U) NGOs and military officials agreed that the two
annual conferences succeeded in opening up a conversation
between NGOs, government, and the military about the
importance of enforcement of marine environmental laws. Both
NGOs and military officials commented that future conferences
should focus more on capacity building. The conference also
helped create institutional knowledge, notably via the
collaborative effort that produced the outline for a
Colombian Navy operations manual. This manual will be the
basis of a new course on environmental enforcement at the
Navy's training school -- the first of its kind.

8. (U) The Ministry of Environment (MoE) and ICA seek to
develop a nation-wide observer program for fishing boats with
training assistance from NOAA. The director of Conservation
International (CI) stated that promoting conservation efforts
in San Andres, an important way station for migratory birds
and marine life, is the single most important marine
environment issue in Colombia. CI would like to set up a fund
for San Andres' SeaFlower Biosphere Protected Area, similar
to that of Malpelo to help fund a dedicated environmental
enforcement patrol boat.

COMMENT: CHALLENGES TO SUCCESSFUL ENFORCEMENT
--------------------------------------------- -

9. (SBU) This year's conference took another important step
in reinforcing to the Navy the economic and social value of
enforcing fishing and environmental laws. But several
challenges remain: the inter-agency process is weak, the MoE
is not a political heavyweight, and the Ministry of Defense
does not assist in coordinating between the MoE and military
(Navy). Prosecution of violators is also a challenge -- the
fishing industry has good lawyers, the legal process is long
and involved, and local governments do not have the resources
to provide all of the evidence required to prosecute. NGOs
underlined that more long-term commitment is needed from the
military in order to protect Colombia's marine resources.
Continued focus on capacity-building would be a step in the
right direction since Navy captains note that "a boat full of
drugs is still much more valuable than a boat full of illegal
catch."
Nichols

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