National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

National Geographic Pristine Seas Embarks on Unprecedented Expedition in Colombia to Support New Marine Protected Areas in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, President Iván Duque announced his intention to protect 30% of the Colombian sea by 2022.

Colombia (March 15, 2022)—National Geographic Pristine Seas, a marine conservation initiative, kicked off an unprecedented scientific expedition to study Colombian waters. Its main objectives are: 

  • To conduct scientific research to support a government plan to create new marine protected areas that together will cover 30 percent of Colombia’s exclusive economic zone
  • To produce a documentary film to showcase the diversity of Colombia’s marine ecosystems and Colombia’s efforts to protect them

The expedition will study several areas in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean sea. In March, the Pristine Seas team along with Colombian researchers will conduct scientific studies in the Malpelo and Yuruparí ridges, the region of Colinas y Lomas, and the Gulf of Tribugá in the Pacific. In April, they will study the sea around Serranilla and Bajo Nuevo, two remote reefs to the north of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve in the Colombian Caribbean.

 “We are partnering with the Colombian government to support the President’s pledge to protect 30 percent of Colombia’s seas utilizing cutting edge science and technology to assess the marine ecosystems. Our scientific research will focus on filling knowledge gaps and addressing the needs of local communities. ” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and National Geographic Pristine Seas executive director.

The studies will be conducted by an international team of more than twenty scientists from Australia,  Colombia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Their methodology will combine surveys through scuba diving, environmental DNA, measurements of microplastics pollution, shark tagging, seabird surveys and remote cameras to study and document marine life from the surface down to 7,000 meters underwater.   In addition, they will utilize a manned submarine capable of descending to a depth of 450 meters. 

“This expedition in partnership with National Geographic Pristine Seas is of great importance to fulfill the pledge President Iván Duque made to protect 30 percent of marine and terrestrial areas in Colombia by 2022, eight years ahead of the commitment we made with the 30×30 High Ambition Coalition. Colombia is a global leader in preserving nature, and in coordination with other countries we will preserve our Pacific ecosystems to the benefit of the greater Latin American region.” said Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Carlos Eduardo Correa.

This expedition is a collaboration between National Geographic Pristine Seas, the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Colombian Ocean Commission. The expedition team includes researchers from the Universidad Nacional, Universidad Militar Nueva Granada, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana de Medellín, Corporación Centro de Excelencia en Ciencias Marinas – CEMarin, public institutions such as INVEMAR, Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, and DIMAR, regional management authorities such as CORALINA and CODECHOCÓ, and civil society organizations such as Colombia Azul, Fundación Malpelo and Dynamic Planet.

After the expedition concludes, the international team will write a scientific report on their observations and findings that will be presented to the Colombian government, regional and local organizations, the scientific community and the general public to support the processes of creating new marine protected areas in Colombia. 


National Geographic Pristine Seas is an exploration, research and media project founded and led by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The Pristine Seas team is comprised of determined scientists, policy experts and filmmakers who work to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come. Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 25 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers. Learn more at

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.