Colombia’s Operation Artemisa extends frontline to ocean protection

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Operation Artemisa was created in 2019 as a joint task force between the Ministries of Environment and Defense to combat illegal deforestation inside Colombia’s National Parks. Named after a Greek Goddess who with bow and arrow was the guardian of wildlife and protector of forests, “Artemisa” set out to secure large swathes of the Orinoco and Amazon basins in the interests of national security.

With plenty of military hardware to patrol remote regions of the country, Artemisa became a pillar of the government’s 2019/2020 National Development Plan, and for the former Presidential Security Advisor Rafael Guarín, its core mission is to “guarantee the nation’s integrity by protecting the essential right to water, a clean environment and biodiversity.”

In the on-going fight to protect endangered habits, Colombia’s eco-warriors are taking the frontline to the nation’s oceans, enlisting support from the Navy to target illegal fishing and indiscriminate trawling. During a visit to Gorgona National Park on Sunday, President Iván Duque extended Artemisa’s reach to also focus on protecting coral reefs and atolls, home to 45% of world’s marine species. President Duque reiterated that the Navy maintains a permanent presence on Gorgona Island together with the National Coastguard.

Rear Admiral Francisco Hernando Cubides, Commander of the Pacific Naval Force, declared that the entire capacity of the Navy is available to meet the challenges of Artemisa at sea. “Our units in this region provide not only security, but environmental development in this important region of the country,” he stressed. Rear Admiral Cubides highlighted that Operation Artemisa includes Utría National Natural Park, Uramba Natural Park (Bahía Málaga, Valle del Cauca), Gorgona National Park, Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, the Yuruparí district, as well as the Sanquianga Park in Nariño.

Since launching in 2019, Artemisa’s 22,000-strong jungle guardians have managed to recover more than 146,000 hectares of tropical forest belonging to PNN Chiribiquete and the Llanos de Yarí watershed. Hundreds of military sorties, have resulted in arrests of persons charged with environmental crimes, including setting fires in protected parkland, toxic chemical dumping, illegal mining and animal trafficking.

“For the first time in our history, we have aligned our domestic agenda, with foreign policy, and national security objectives with the sole aim of protecting our natural resources,” believes Guarín. President Duque during the Glasgow COP26 Summit declared 30% of the nation’s total land and sea territory as “protected areas.”