Seaflower Marine Protected Area

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a - General features of the site

Terrestrial surface under sovereignty, excluding wetlands:

650 sq. km

Wetland surface:

250 ha

Marine surface:

65000 sq. km

Global comment for the 3 previous fields (optional):

The Seaflower MPA includes 65,000 km2. The territory is under the jurisdiction of the Colombian State, with the native community (known as raizales) having tenure rights under the Constitution (Art. 310) and subsequent regulations.

b - Physical features

Brief description of the main physical characteristics in the area:

See details below.


The Seaflower MPA includes a series of oceanic islands, barrier reef complexes, atolls and coral shoals, of volcanic origin, linked to the formation of the Nicaraguan Rise and the Caribbean Sea. It is characterized by 2 barrier reef complexes on the windward sides of the main populated islands of San Andres and Old Providence (linked to the smaller island of Santa Catalina by bridge), and a series of atolls and coral banks lined up in a NNE direction that extend for over 500 km. The Seaflower MPA includes Courtown (ESE Cay) - a kidneyshaped atoll 6.4 km by 3.5 km; Albuquerque (SSW Cay) - a circular atoll with a diameter over 8 km; Roncador - an atoll 15 km by 7 km with a 12-km reef to windward; Serrana - an atoll 36 km long and 15 km wide with a complex reef system 37 km by 30 km; and Quitasueño (Queena) - the archipelago's largest coral structure, a half-atoll, 60 km long and 10 to 20 km wide with a 40-km reef wall.

Geister and Diaz (1997) estimate that as the islands and atolls appear to be closely linked to the formation of the Nicaraguan Rise and the Caribbean Sea, the early pre-island history may date back to the late Cretaceous period. The islands, atolls, and banks are volcanic in origin, formed from the subsidence of volcanic basements and the capping of sea mounts by carbonates in Tertiary to Quaternary times. The San Andres Trough, a tectonic graben on the lower-Nicaraguan Rise (15° NNE), separates the archipelago from the Middle American continental shelf. The Trough itself is part of a regional tectonic pattern deemed remarkable for its fracture zones.

Because of its remote location within the Caribbean region, according to the 2004 World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Reefs at Risk analysis, the Seaflower MPA represents not only one of the most extensive reef areas in the Western Atlantic but also a particularly complex one due to its exposure to currents, wave action, and other physical oceanographic factors. Furthermore, the islands and atolls of the Seaflower MPA play a significant role in water circulation regionally, with the formation of the Yucatan current from the diverted Caribbean current, and the generation of the Colombia-Panama gyro (SE current).


The Seaflower MPA includes slightly over 250 ha of mangroves in 12 coastal, estuarine swamps. Four species – red, black, white, and buttonwood – are found. San Andres is the archipelago's largest island. In 1996, mangroves covered 161 ha. Following education, reforestation, and establishment of protected areas, total mangrove area has increased to close to 200 ha. The Hooker Bight/Honda Bay mangroves are the island’s largest wetland at 51 ha. This ecosystem is protected in the Old Point Regional Mangrove Park. Other mangrove forests are Cocoplum, Salt Creek, Sound Bay, Smith Channel, and Cove Seaside, all of which are protected.

In Old Providence and Santa Catalina mangroves covered a total area of 54 ha in 1996. With an area of 30 hectares, the Oyster Creek mangroves are the largest and most productive and form part of the only national park in the archipelago, Old Providence McBean Lagoon. Other small but productive stands of mangroves are Southwest Bay, Old Town, Manchineel Bay, Jones Point, and Santa Catalina.


Length of beaches (in km), including islands :

a) Length of sandy beaches: 2.4 km in length

b) Length of pebble or stony beaches: .8 km in length

c) Length, height and depth of active sand-dunes: 3.8 km2 in area with 2.5-3.5 m in height


Mean annual precipitation (in mm) 1700 mm