Development of Guidelines for Protected Areas and Species Under the SPAW Protocol

Elkhorn coral (Acropora  palmata)

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata)
Photo credit: NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary



The Parties to the SPAW Protocol agreed to adopt common guidelines and criteria under Article 21.

The main objectives of this activity are to:

  • Promote and assist with the development and implementation of the guidelines on protected area establishment, management and listing developed under the framework of SPAW;
  • Promote a national system for protected areas as a mechanism for the development of relevant legislation and reporting mechanisms; and
  • Promote and assist with the development and implementation of guidelines on species conservation and management developed under the framework of SPAW.

Guidelines developed to date:

The Guidelines and Criteria for the Evaluation of Protected Areas to be Listed under the SPAW Protocol were adopted by Contracting Parties in 2010 and encompasses the following:

  • Sustain natural resources and encourage their ecologically sound and appropriate use, understanding and enjoyment;
  • Protect and preserve areas, habitats and species;
  • Form a network of protected areas;
  • Develop cooperative agreements on bilateral and multilateral bases to promote the effectiveness of the network of protected areas;
  • Include a comprehensive and representative system of protected areas; and
  • Ensure that any area to be included in the List of Protected Areas recognized by the SPAW Protocol conforms to the following guidelines and criteria:

          - Ecological, cultural and socio-economic criteria;
          - Protection, planning and management measures; and
          - Procedures for nomination, listing, and delisting of Protected Areas.

    An annotated format for the presentation of reports for the areas proposed for Inclusion in the SPAW list was adopted in 2010.


    Following the SPAW COP 8 held in Cartagena (Colombia) on 9 December 2014, ten (10) new species were added and listed under Annex II and Annex III respectively of the SPAW Protocol.

    This included:

    • Four (4) of the most important reef building corals of the region listed under Annex II - Staghorn Coral, Elkhorn Coral, Boulder Star Coral and Mountain Star Coral.
    • Two (2) species of birds whose populations are declining overall, the Black-capped Petrel and Bicknell’s Thrush, also now benefit from full protection under Annex II, whereas a species of the White-crowned pigeon, was listed under Annex III.
    • Species of plants were also taken into consideration with the addition of three species of overharvested trees (Guaiacum sanctu,Ekmanianthe longifora, and Bombacopsis emarginata) under Annex III.

    This amendment of the Annexes is the first since the adoption of the SPAW Protocol in 1990, and represents a significant step for its implementation. See Updated list of species listed under the Annexes of the SPAW Protocol (2016) in all 3 languages.

    The three (3) Annexes of the SPAW Protocol:

    For the 2015-2016 Biennium there will be:

    • An updated list of protected areas under the SPAW Protocol;
    • A Format approved for presenting exemptions under Article 11(2), and reporting on their implementation; and
    • A revised list of protected species under Annexes I-III of the SPAW Protocol using the revised criteria and update procedure for listing
      This is based on Article 21 of the SPAW Protocol which requires the establishment of common guidelines and criteria for the identification and selection of protected species to be listed under the specified Annexes. Theguidelines and criteria outlined are for this purpose, and should be applied in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol (particularly for endangered and threatened species).
    Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus)

    Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus)
    Photo credit: Chris McLauglin


    Report of the Working Group on the Application of Criteria for Listing Species Under the Annexes to the SPAW Protocol (includes species proposed for listing in the Annexes):


    Report of the Working Group to Develop the Criteria and Process to Assess Exemptions Under Article 11(2) of the SPAW Protocol (includes guidance document):


    Guidelines and Criteria for the Evaluation of Protected  Areas to be listed under the SPAW Protocol:


     Annotated format for presentation reports for the areas proposed for inclusion in the SPAW list:


    SPAW Protocol Documents

    • SPAW Protocol (text only)

      Download PDF file in English Download PDF file in SpanishDownload PDF file in French

    • Final Act, Resolutions 1990

      Download PDF file in English Download PDF file in Spanish Download PDF file in French

    • Final Act, Resolution, Appendix and Species Annexes I, II, III 1991

      Download PDF file in English

    • SPAW Factsheet

      Download PDF file in English Download PDF file in Spanishpdf-fr.png

    • SPAW Brochure

      pdf-en.png pdf-es.png pdf-fr.png

    • SPAW Benefits Sheet

      Download PDF file in English Download PDF file in SpanishDownload PDF file in French

    • Guildines for Marine Mammal Watching in the WCR
      Download PDF file in English
    • Ratification Map

          Ratification Map