Ecuador has financing for Galapagos reserve, still open to blue bonds, minister says

QUITO, March 17 (Reuters) - Ecuador has secured $150 million in financing to manage its expanded marine reserve around the Galapagos, but remains open to blue bonds to benefit the environmentally sensitive area, Environment Minister Gustavo Manrique said Friday.

The South American country last year expanded the marine reserve by 60,000 square km (23,166 square miles), in addition to the 138,000 square km (53,282 square miles) already in place, to protect endangered migratory species between the Galapagos and the Cocos Island in Costa Rica.

The Ecuadorean government's plan to finance the expansion of the Hermandad reserve included a potential debt-for-nature swap, but the Andean nation has not yet finalized the agreement.

"In Lisbon, Portugal, we signed $150 million in contributions from private and multilateral agencies that must be invested over the next five years for the protection of the Hermandad marine reserve," Manrique said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

"Blue bonds are always an option in these financing mechanisms," he said.

The country's economic policymakers have said the deal would be finalized later this year, but plans could be disrupted by an impeachment effort against President Guillermo Lasso by opposition lawmakers, which could result in his censure or removal from office.

"Blue bonds are not the only tool we have, there are other sources of funding for the control and monitoring of these areas," Manrique said.

Ecuador also recently announced the creation of a marine reserve eight nautical miles along its mainland coastline to protect species like the humpback whale, manta rays, sharks and four of the world's seven species of sea turtles.

Permanent financing for the new area, which will cover an area of 1.5 million hectares, is still being defined, but the area will help guarantee the livelihoods of tens of thousands of small-scale fishermen in the South American nation, Manrique said.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by David Gregorio

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