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

giant oceanic manta ray - Manta birostris (noaa)

Giant Oceanic Manta Ray - Manta birostris
Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Defenders of Wildlife



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 9 held in Cayenne, French Guiana, 13 March 2017, twelve (12) new species were added and listed under Annex II and Annex III respectively of the SPAW Protocol.

    This included

    Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) - © World Wildlife Fund:

    This amendment of the Annexes follows up on the very significant updates to the list following the SPAW COP 8 held in Cartagena, Colombia, in December 2014, which was the first since the adoption of the SPAW Protocol in 1990. 

    The three (3) Annexes of the SPAW Protocol can be downloaded here

    Listing of Protected Areas: English | Spanish

    One additional protected area (Cayos de San Felipe National Park in Cuba) was listed under the SPAW Protocol. A total of 32 protected areas are now listed under the Protocol with a view to enhance their effectiveness, share lessons learnt with other protected areas, and benefit from a Cooperation Programme dedicated to the SPAW protected areas managers for the listed areas.

    France also indicated its intent to initiate the process to  present a future submission of 2 protected areas for listing. 

    For the 2017-2018 Biennium there will be:

    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. The guidelines 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

    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:


    Reporting format for exemptions under Article 11(2)

    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