Our underwater Costa Rica is simply amazing

Written by Eva Salas, marine biologist

We are a small country, but thanks to Cocos Island our territory is very large and is 90% sea. Who knows what is there to be discovered in the seamounts which are part of the island, or the more than 3,000 meters deep pit where the Cocos plate sinks under the Caribbean. Our small country has at least 3.5% of the marine biodiversity in the world … that’s a lot!
We’re lucky, it’s not just any country that has the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea so close! These two bodies of water were separated more than 3 million years ago, so if one looks underwater with a mask and a snorkel, one meets two completely different universes. The fishes look very similar, but there are some differences in the colors. Corals are nothing alike in the Caribbean and the Pacific. One wonders how they got there, how these species evolved?

Los corales que habitan el océano Pacífico (Izq.), son muy distintos de los del mar Caribe (Der.).

Corals in the Pacific Ocean (Left),are very different from those in the Caribbean Sea (Right).

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Joy that can be appraised

Written by Andrés Beita, marine biologist

Who doesn’t enjoy a short trip over the weekend? Last August I took advantage of both Mother’s Day and dad’s birthday and I went with my family around Caño Island in search of whales.

Each year, between the months of August and October our country is visited by humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that live in the cold waters of the Southern Hemisphere. They come to mate and give birth to their young in our warm tropical waters.

The anxiety of waiting

We left from Sierpe village, crossing estuaries that took us to the sea while admiring the impressive mangrove forests surrounding the delta of the Sierpe and Térraba rivers, the largest mangrove forest in Central America.

Once at sea, everybody onboard would think they had spotted a whale every time they saw a log floating or even a shadow of the waves. There was great anxiety, we all wanted to know when we would get to see the first whale.

Impresionante Sierpe, Bahía de Drake, Isla del Caño. Foto por Marco Quesada.

The imposing Sierpe, Drake’s Bay, Caño Island. Photo by Marco Quesada.

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Working with Marine Mammals (part II)

Written by Laura May-Collado, Associated Researcher at Vermont University and CIMAR
This post is a sequel of this one

My initial work with scientists John Calambokidis, Kristin Rasmussen and Tim Gerrodette provided an important baseline that has since contributed to the protection of these animals and their habitat in Costa Rica, but there is still at lot to be done research and conservation wise. About 47% of these cetacean species are classified by the IUCN Red List (2015.2) as data deficient; meaning their risk of extinction cannot be determine due to lack of information. This of course generates uncertainty about whether these species are safe or actually in danger, a difficult challenge to address, as many funding agencies do not provide grants to fulfill these kinds of gaps in knowledge. This is a concern because the ongoing biodiversity crisis is significantly affecting all cetacean populations independently of their IUCN status.

Cetaceans have a very low population growth rate making them susceptible to any kind of exploitation that affects their behavior and immediate population size including pollution (chemical, acoustic), intense harvesting, climate change, and high incidental mortality in fishing nets.

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Working with Marine Mammals (Part I)

Written by Laura May-Collado, Associated Researcher at Vermont University and CIMAR
Investigando con la ayuda de drones en Bocas del Toro, Panamá.

Researching with the help of drones in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Photo by LJMay-Collado

I have been working with marine mammals since 1998. My interest on this group started the year before, when working as field assistance for a Californian field biology course. As part of the program, we took students to Murcielago’s Islands, located at the tip of the Peninsula of Santa Elena in Guanacaste. This was my first time visiting the island, and I think it was my first time in a boat! To my surprise spotted dolphins followed us for most part of the trip, and throughout my visit I saw them every day. I was surprised to see them so close to the coast and immediately wondered about the potential consequences of their home range overlap with human activities. Continue reading