Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife
Under the SPAW Protocol, nations in the wider Caribbean region work together to conserve and manage threatened and endangered species.
The Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife—commonly referred to as the SPAW Protocol—is part of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (the Cartagena Convention). Under the SPAW Protocol, nations in the wider Caribbean region work together to conserve and manage threatened and endangered species. The United States ratified the SPAW Protocol in 2003. In doing so, it committed to take the required measures to protect, preserve, and sustainably manage areas that need conservation to safeguard their special value and the threatened or endangered flora and fauna they contain. For example, migratory species such as whales, sea turtles, pelagic fishes, and birds rely on the marine and coastal waters of multiple countries when they spawn, feed, and breed. Collaborating and building partnerships in the region will better protect these species, benefiting all those concerned and helping us conserve vital marine resources we depend on.
Where Does the Protocol Apply?
In the United States, the SPAW Protocol covers the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico (i.e., U.S. waters off Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida), areas of the Atlantic Ocean south of 30˚N latitude and within 200 nautical miles of the U.S. Atlantic coast, and the marine environments of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Navassa Island.
Protecting Threatened and Endangered Species Under the SPAW Protocol
The SPAW Protocol has three annexes.
Annexes I and II list plant (Annex I) and animal (Annex II) species subject to the highest levels of protection—endangered and threatened species, subspecies, or their populations as well as rare species. For animals listed in Annex II, parties to the protocol must “ensure total protection and recovery to the species…by prohibiting: (i) the taking, possession or killing (including, to the extent possible, the incidental taking, possession or killing) or commercial trade in such species, their eggs, parts or products; [and] (ii) to the extent possible, the disturbance of such species, particularly during periods of breeding, incubation, estivation or migration, as well as other periods of biological stress.”
Annex III lists both plant and animal species. Parties must adopt appropriate measures to ensure these species’ protection and recovery. This annex is not intended to be more restrictive than the provisions of Annexes I and II; therefore, some regulated harvest may be permitted.
Benefits of Participating in the SPAW Protocol
Listing species under the SPAW Protocol:
Provides more avenues for dialogue and information sharing.
Strengthens the U.S. leadership role in marine conservation in the wider Caribbean.
Creates opportunities to better manage shared resources, particularly migratory species.
Meets the U.S. commitment to list threatened and endangered species as a signatory to the Cartagena Convention.
Learn more about the SPAW Protocol.