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Press Relases June 3, 2004

Conservation International and ConocoPhillips Launch 'Biodiversity Action Plan' in Venezuela's Gulf of Paria

Company Promotes Environmental Conservation & Sustainable Development as part of Oil Production Strategy in Biologically Rich Region

Caracas, Venezuela - Working to protect one of the Caribbean's two most important regions for marine species, Conservation International and ConocoPhillips have launched a 'Biodiversity Action Plan' (BAP) to promote environmental protection and regional economic development as part of the company's oil production strategy in Venezuela's Gulf of Paria.

Home to over 200 species of mollusks, 50 species of crustaceans and at least 400 species of fishes - including the discovery of seven new species of fishes and crustaceans during the research phase of the project - the Gulf of Paria and adjacent Orinoco Delta are one the Caribbean's richest areas in aquatic biodiversity. While many of the local communities, including the indigenous Warao group, rely on this marine life for economic survival, the area is under increasing pressure from rapidly expanding petroleum production and unsustainable fishing practices that are depleting local fish and shrimp stocks.

"The Gulf of Paria is located in a very important area for marine species richness which many communities in the region rely on for their livelihoods. It is also an area of rapidly growing interest for the petroleum industry," said Dr. Assheton Carter, Director of Energy and Mining at Conservation International. "That is why it is important to work with companies like ConocoPhillips to not only minimize their own environmental footprint, but to engage them and others to make a positive contribution to sustainable development and conservation in the region."

Some key recommendations in the Biodiversity Action Plan include:

  • Petroleum companies operating in the Gulf of Paria make positive contributions to local economic development and biodiversity conservation by implementing best operational practices and supporting improved resource management;
  • Development of improved practices that conserve key commercially important and/or threatened species and promote sustainable development adopted by artisanal and industrial fisheries;
  • Information on biodiversity, ecosystems and the socio-economic activities in the Gulf of Paria is generated, made publicly available, and data gaps filled with additional studies where necessary; and
  • Implementation of a regional plan that conserves biological resources while promoting activities that contributes to sustainable development of Gulf of Paria communities.

"ConocoPhillips Venezuela envisions being a catalyst for positive change in the Gulf of Paria. Our strategy seeks to integrate best available practices to protect the environment with capacity building to help create healthier, stronger, and more prosperous communities. Through our collaboration with Conservation International, we hope to develop ways to minimize our impacts on the environment and preserve biodiversity," said Fernando Rodriguez, Manager of Health, Safety and Environmental Quality of ConocoPhillips.

CI and ConocoPhillips plan to work with the local communities, governments, NGOs, and the private sector, particularly petroleum companies and fisheries, to implement the recommendations and attract additional support for promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the region. ConocoPhillips formally launched the Biodiversity Action Plan at a symposium entitled "Contribution to the Knowledge of Biological Diversity and Sociocultural Aspects of the Gulf of Paria and Orinoco Delta," on June 3 in Caracas, Venezuela.

ConocoPhillips discovered the Corocoro gas and oil field in the Gulf of Paria in 1999 and declared it commercially viable in October 2002. Prior to developing the field for production, ConocoPhillips partnered with Conservation International on a multi-phase Initial Biodiversity Assessment and Planning (IBAP) process to assess the biodiversity in the region, review existing and potential risks to biodiversity and opportunities to conserve it, and recommend conservation strategies involving a range of stakeholders.

As part of the IBAP process, the company supported Conservation International and the Fundación La Salle to conduct a rapid aquatic biodiversity survey (AquaRAP) in December 2002 in portions of the Gulf of Paria and the Orinoco Delta. This study was designed to collect biodiversity information to guide development and conservation activities in the region. The AquaRAP team discovered 41 fish species, eight crustacean species and 15 benthic invertebrates (microcrustaceans, mollusks, etc.) not previously known to exist in the region. Additionally, the team discovered two fish species and five crustacean species not previously known to science.

In total, 96 species of invertebrates and 106 species of fishes were documented, many of which are of commercial importance but are threatened by unregulated and damaging fishing practices, principally trawling. The results of the AquaRAP, along with previously conducted research, demonstrated that the Orinoco Delta and adjacent Gulf of Paria to be particularly high in marine species richness and endemism, i.e. species found nowhere else.

Following the AquaRAP, two "Threats and Opportunities" Workshops were facilitated by Conservation International and attended by 25 representatives from ConocoPhillips, Ecology and Environment S.A., GEF-MARN (Global Environmental Facility-Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), Universidad de Oriente, Fundación La Salle, and Universidad Central de Venezuela. The recommendations laid out in the Biodiversity Action Plan are the result of the biodiversity and socio-economic research from the AquaRAP and Threats and Opportunities Workshops.

Both ConocoPhillips and Conservation International hope that the results of the AquaRAP and workshop not only promote improved resource management and conservation efforts in the Corocoro concession, but in other areas in the Gulf of Paria and larger Orinoco Delta region. As such, this survey and Biodiversity Action Plan should not be seen as an end product, but rather a starting point for generating knowledge, interest and support for promoting regional conservation and sustainable development through greater cooperation and dialogue with key stakeholders.

The full report detailing the AquaRAP and Biodiversity Action Plan can be downloaded online at Please e-mail to request hi-resolution maps and images from the AquaRAP.

Jason Anderson


Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB) provides a new forum for collaboration between the private sector and the environmental community. Created in partnership with Conservation International (CI) and the Ford Motor Company, CELB operates as a division of CI and is governed by a distinct executive board of leaders from the business and environmental communities-engaging the private sector worldwide in creating solutions to critical global environmental problems in which industry plays a defining role. For further information about CELB, please visit


Katrin Olson
[email protected]


Initial Biodiversity Assessment and Planning (IBAP) Factsheet (PDF)
ConocoPhillips AquaRAP Report (Excerpted) (PDF)
Gulf of Paria AquaRAP Maps (PDF)
Rapid Assessment Program Factsheet (PDF)
• ConocoPhillips Gulf of Paria Interactive Website

 Photo credits for banner image: (Zebras in Botswana) © CI, Chris Brooks