Sad coincidences

Marco Quesada, director of Conservation International Costa Rica

There was an accident on the Gulf of Nicoya yesterday: 180 tons of ammonium nitrate fell into the ocean when the barge that was transporting the cargo to Fertica’s property sank. Ammonium nitrate is a water-soluble salt that is frequently used as an agricultural fertilizer. Under certain circumstances, this substance can be explosive and special measures need to be taken during its transport and storage. 

AvOL-TtPZETelgnq5f_33v3s90wbksvVhkUBpk3CDSS9The Gulf of Nicoya is Costa Rica’s biggest estuary, and its most productive. It’s relatively shallow, its waters are well mixed and it’s surrounded by mangroves and muddy beaches. Circulation of fish and shrimp larvae in the Gulf is very complex and depends on tides and rivers entering the estuary.

Despite of the thousands of families that depend on fishing and that this system has been over exploited for decades probably, so far INCOPESCA hasn’t taken effective measures for its sustainable management. 


At this time, National Emergency Commission has only shared a short release in which a small area inside the Gulf is delimitated, area that seems limited considering existing currents. As a matter of fact, CIMAR had already issued warnings about strong waves in the area during this weekend.

This is where we notice a sad coincidence. Some months ago, a catamaran with tourists onboard also sank in Puntarenas, during a time when strong waves had been predicted. We can’t help but wonder if the sunken barge took all the necessary precautions to face such conditions.

Why is it, that even if preventive warnings have been issued, such regrettable emergencies have happened in such a small period of time?  We also wonder if we have an emergency protocol for the unloading of such kinds of materials, in biologically- sensitive and highly populated areas. Which are the responsible institutions, the ones that should oversee the application of such a protocol?

Transport of dangerous materials by sea, such as ammonium nitrate, is internationally regulated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), particularly through the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) and MARPOL (Marine Pollution) agreements. Our country has not ratified the 1996 SOLAS agreement nor the MARPOL convention, not even any of its anexes. Going through our National Plan for Risk Management, we cannot find any concrete mention of any marine or coastal situations. We understand this is a guide document, and we hope there are updated and effective documents in our country, in order to manage these kinds of emergencies.

We’ll see what happens, but we deeply regret that this emergency was not prevented.

Read more here.


Miles de familias viven de la pesca pero el golfo tiene décadas de ser sobre pescado

10 things you didn’t know about the ocean


ci_74583944_Small1. More than 90% of the planet’s living biomass is in the oceans. 

There is much more life in our seas than on land. But we’re not taking care of it: approximately 50% of the world’s coastal ecosystems (coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses for instance) have been altered or destroyed by the increase pressure of cities, industries, aquaculture, tourism, etc. 

2. Less than 10% of the ocean has been explored by human beings. 

Technology has enabled us to increase our knowledge of the oceans. However it seems we know more about outer space than about our blue planet. Deepening our knowledge would strengthen their conservation since we’d understand how to better protect them.

Continue reading

“ Wherever protection has been implemented, improvement is evident”

“Wherever protection has been implemented, improvement is evident” Juan José Alvarado, CIMAR

Juan José Alvarado (CIMAR researcher) and Cindy Fernández (CIMAR researcher) have been observing the Costa Rican reefs for nearly two years through an unprecedented effort. Their extensive work turns them into the most knowledgeable and experienced people on the reefs that are hidden underneath the Pacific of Costa Rica. 

monitoreo3What conclusions have you reached after so many dives, so much data collected and so much analysis? 

JJ: The big surprise of the monitoring has been Osa. Particularly, Golfo Dulce. This area has traditionally been impacted by sedimentation and gold extraction … But it is evident that the conservation strategies implemented around the Gulf are working. The live coral coverage is really high; invertebrate diversity is high, among fish, there is a rich diversity. Golfo Dulce has a live coral coverage higher than Coco’s Island. It is the richest point along the coast.

C: One would tend to think that Golfo Dulce is unsuitable for reef development, but we realize that the conservation strategies that have been ongoing for fifteen years are indeed working.

Continue reading