Summer in Guanacaste

Written by Mónika Naranjo González, audiovisual producer

About Costa Rica and the environment, Costa Rica and its oceans, Costa Rica its management of marine and coastal resources there is much to be said.

But it seems impossible to start without clarifying certain concepts: to be against illegal fishing is not to be against the fishermen. To be in favor of environmental conservation is not to be against the exploitation of resources. To denounce and disagree with actions of our institutions is not to be against the government.

Yes, it becomes necessary to stress assumptions that should be obvious because our coastal and marine resources are caught in a crossfire that emerges from the bad image of the conservation movement, the inheritance of government institutions that are ineffective to say the least, the lack of tools in the hands of citizens, the overwhelming of the general public in face of the continuous bombardment of bad news.

It is not easy to start a conversation about marine conservation in our country.

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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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The Green Wall

Written by Mónika Naranjo González
Indonesia ha tenido que aprender sobre la importancia de los manglares de una forma muy dura. Hoy existen varios proyectos de recuperación de este ecosistema. Foto por Conservation International

Indonesia has had to learn the importance of mangroves the hard way. Today there are several mangrove recovery programs in place. Photo by Conservation International

It all started during a massive drought in Indonesia. Peatlands (a type of wetland) began to burn. The huge amount of organic material in the soil also burned and spread disaster, fire could not be controlled for months. Amid the emergency new knowledge gained prominence: the relationship between these ecosystems and climate change.

In that scenario Miguel Cifuentes started to learn about the connection between the loss of mangroves and organic substrates, and the release of their stored carbon dioxide.

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A shark is worth more alive than dead


Sharks are a group of highly successful predators, and many species play an important role in marine ecosystems. For example, the biggest sharks can control the abundance and distribution of species of smaller size, thus regulating the diversity and maintaining the health of marine ecosystems.

Los tiburones pueden ser una fuente de ingreso a través del ecoturismo. Foto por Sijmon de Waal

Sharks can be a source of income through ecotourism. Photo by Sijmon de Waal

Moreover, in several regions of the world it has been discovered that some shark species may stimulate the local economy through ecotourism. Therefore, the real value of sharks goes far beyond marketing their meat and/or fins, for example, it is estimated that ecotourism activities around sharks can generate more than $ 314 million per year in the world. This has led to think that, both ecologically and economically, a shark is more valuable alive than dead. Continue reading

Working with mangroves and blue carbon in Central America

Written by Miguel Cifuentes, Climate Change and Basins Program CATIE
Miguel Cifuentes working on the mangrove forests of Central America

Miguel Cifuentes working on the mangrove forests of Central America

I started working with mangroves and blue carbon back in 2012 after I heard about a meeting on the topic in Indonesia. I knew similar work had not been done in Central America and recognized the enormous and untapped potential mangroves have in the region, securing ecosystem services, providing climate change mitigation, adaptation and supporting the local coastal community development. This kind of simultaneous “quadruple-win” outcome is only seen in mangrove forests; one reason working with them is so interesting and rewarding. Despite their incredible importance, they seem to have been left in a “limbo”, ignored by terrestrial biologists and foresters, and shunned by marine biologists, left to be degraded, over-exploited, and commonly drained to promote other, “more productive” land uses. Continue reading