Why We Need Your Help
"Twenty years ago there were Dolphins as far as the eye could see, and Tuna everywhere. Today these monster factory ships have made Costa Rica's ocean into an almost barren sea. There are very few Tuna with the Dolphins. Scared as hell." ~ Fred Maschmeier ~ Drake Bay, Costa Rica Sport Fisherman
Costa Rica's dolphins, whales, sea turtles and other marine flora and fauna are being decimated at alarming rates due to rampant commericIal fishing including long lines, gill nets, shrimp trawling and tuna boats.
The Osa Peninsula, on the South Pacific side of Costa Rica is known by National Geographic as the most biologically intense place on Earth. The waters off the Osa Peninsula are a virtual marine wonderland, housing over twenty-five species of dolphins and whales that live here year round or migrate through and also hosts four of the world’s eight species of sea turtles.
In fact, Costa Rica enjoys one of the most biologically diverse ocean ecosystems in the world. This is mainly because the heart of a vast habitat known as the Costa Rican Thermal Convection Dome, named for its proximity to this country, lies here. Shallow warm waters lie on top of low-oxygen cold water, creating the perfect ecosystem for a vast variety of marine life. The dome off the coast of Costa Rica is the only one in the world that is constant. Such conditions provide the Costa Rican Pacific waters with a very unique scheme of biological richness. Whales, dolphins, tuna, marlin, manta rays, sea turtles, sailfish and more, congregate in this area taking advantage of this year-round thermal dome of ecologically rich waters.
All this rich biodiversity is found here on the Osa Peninsula, but yet, the area is almost entirely unprotected, except for small areas around the national parks. Commercial fishing techniques such as long lining, shrimping, gill netting and tuna fishing are wreaking havoc on this delicate and biologically diverse area and its marine inhabitants, and if urgent and drastic actions are not taken immediately, the world will lose this treasure forever.
The quickest and easiest way to protect this precious and pristine area before it is to late is to create a Marine Protected Area (MPA)… and we need your help to do it.
"One of the few commitments made by world leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 was to address the current inadequate protection of our oceans and coasts by creating representative networks of MPAs by 2012. More recently, in 2010 governments gathered in Japan at the UN Convention on Biodiversity meeting agreed to a biodiversity rescue plan that includes marine protected areas covering 10% of our oceans by 2020." ~ World Wildlife FederationHumpback Whales
The Pacific side of Costa Rica is the vital breeding and birthing grounds of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that migrate from both North and South America. It is the only place in the world where Humpback Whales come from two different hemispheres to have their babies and breed. Humpbacks have been sighted in every month of the year, giving us the longest season of Humpbacks in the world. For these reasons alone, the area should be protected but yet they are met by long lines, gill nets and shrimp boats, putting them in danger of entanglement and noise pollution. This is no way to treat an endangered species.
Dolphins and Other Whales
These biologically intense Costa Rican Pacific waters host more than twenty-six species of marine mammals from the Cetacean Order (dolphins and whales). Some of the species with a bigger presence in the area are the Pantropical Spotted Dolphins (Stenella attenuata), the Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) and the Spinner Dolphins (Stenella Longirostris). The Spinner Dolphins found here are a sub-species of Spinner Dolphins found only off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in a 90 mile wide band of ocean. They are hence called Costa Rica Spinner Dolphins, our very own species. But yet they are netted, killed, maimed and stressed out relentlessly by the tuna boats, mostly foreign fleets.
The dolphins are distributed in a heterogeneous manner, from smaller groups with two or three individuals in coastal waters, to pods of thousands of individuals in deeper oceanic waters. Also Roughtooth Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins, Pseudo Orcas, Pilot Whales, Orcas, Bryde’s Whales, Fin Whales and Sei Whales are commonly seen in these waters. For a full list of the dolphins and whales in the area, please visit our website, MPA for OSA.
Four out of the eight sea turtles species in the world are found in the Pacific side of Costa Rica. UICN finds these four sea turtle species to be in a critical state or in danger of extinction. The sea turtles’ threats are mainly over-exploitation of eggs and shells, the changing and destruction of sea turtles’ natural habitats, pollution, and the incidental capture of turtles by commercial and traditional fishing boats. Through the data collected on our research tours, we have discovered that in the last four years, the population of the Olive Ridley Sea turtle has decreased an alarming 79%.
Commercial Shrimp Boats
Commercial shrimp boats drag their nets along the ocean floor virtually killing and “clear cutting” everything in their path, including sea turtles, rays, eels, coral, plant life and thousands of small fish. These small fish are an intricate part of the food chain but are killed before they can grow to reproduce and become food for animals and humans alike, breaking the natural food chain. We already know our turtle population is in grave danger and our coral systems are dead or dying. Once the ocean floor is stripped in this way, it does not grow back. The area that the Humpback Whales (and divers) love so much called Paraiso, is being destroyed by the shrimp boats as are the main feeding areas for our local dolphins. In fact, for every gallon of shrimp that is harvested, over five gallons of other sea life is killed.
Long Lines and Nets
Another major problem in the area is the long line fishing boats. Long lines are spread out, sometimes for miles and miles, and are baited every several feet with a hook and a piece of fish. The sea turtles, sharks, manta rays, billfish and many other forms of marine life often will bite the bait and get hooked on the line. If the line is too far below for the turtles to reach the surface, they drown. The ones who don’t drown and are hooked on the long line at the surface are often cut open by the fishermen in order to look for sea turtle eggs or otherwise killed in the process. The long lines are also harmful to dolphins and whales that cannot see them and get severely cut by the lines and hooks, or worse, get entangled in them and drown.
A baby humpback whale with a line embedded in its skin
Twice we have seen small humpbacks with long lines and rope wrapped around their bodies. We have frequently recorded long lines spread out in the areas frequented by the dolphins, whales and turtles. Often long line gear and nets that are tangled or unusable is left floating in the water so it continues to kill and maim even after the fishermen are done with it. Any captain traveling these waters has seen dead or even live turtles, rays and dolphins stuck in freely floating long line gear and most recently, a dead baby Humpback Whale washed up onto the shores of Corcovado National Park, the victim of a net left in the water as seen in the photo below.
A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology and conducted by the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, Drexel University and the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Pretoma) called Impact of Costa Rican longline fishery on its bycatch of sharks, stingrays, bony fish and olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) states:
"Marine protected areas and/or time area closures are needed to reduce the impact of the Costa Rican longline fishery on sea turtles and sharks."
Randall Arauz, president of the Marine Turtle Restoration Project (PRETOMA) and one of the authors of the above study states:
“You don’t have to be a fishery biologist to know that if you’re killing 80 percent of the animals that haven’t reproduced yet, you’re … on a collision course towards extinction."
A long line fisherman cuts up a manta ray that was captured on their line.
We can see rays, sharks and possibly dolphins in the carnage from the long line boats.
Large commercial tuna boats also kill and maim thousands of dolphins each year. They use helicopters to find the dolphins and when they do, they radio the tuna boat which then puts several speed boats in the water to round up to dolphins and set a net around them to catch the tuna swimming underneath. It is now believed that more than 2000 Spinner dolphins per year or more are being killed by the tuna industry off the Osa Peninsula alone. The dolphins are not able to sustain their populations when they are killed off at this rate. Our subspecies of Spinner Dolphin, the “Costa Rican Spinner Dolphin” has been severely depleted. Where there used to be thousands and thousands of them, there are now hundreds. If we continue to let them be killed, there will be no more Costa Rican Spinner Dolphins.
Our Costa Rica Spinner Dolphins captured in a tuna net by a tuna boat from Venezuela
on July 10, 2012. For the full story and more photos,visit http://on.fb.me/17NUAPS
To promote and support, with a solid scientific base, the creation of a “Multiple Use Marine Protected Area” off the coast of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica and cooperate with all involved parties to achieve its effective protection and enforcement.
The main objective of the AMUM “Multiple Use Marine Protected Area” management category is the protection and conservation of the comprised marine areas and to assure sustainable use of their resources and habitats. Private, commercial, scientific and sport fishing, as well as tourism development and marine transportation activities, will be executed within a management plan and supervision.
The area that we have determined as needing protecting is located in the south of the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica. A “Multiple Use Marine Protected Area” AMUM, is proposed from and including Marino Ballena National Park and Caño Island to Punta Sirena.
This area comprises already protected areas (Corcovado National Park, Isla del Caño, Marino Ballena National Park and Terraba-Sierpe Mangroves); ecosystems of great relevance and unique biological characteristics. The importance of these ecosystems and their immediate and future threats, calls for real protection, coordination and control, both of their natural resources and the activities carried out within their boundaries.
In 2004, the Costa Rican government issued a decree to protect 25% of the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In support of this objective, and to assist in determining the management and protection needs of the extensive marine life found here, MPA for OSA's ambitious project will provide direct technical input, using their extensive scientific database, to create a Protected Marine Area (MPA) and to improve networking for marine biodiversity research at local, national and international levels. This will be accomplished with a master plan that will determine the management and protection needs of the Mesoamerican Marine Corridor’s biodiversity and natural resources.
The conservation of the Osa Peninsula
marine life is a complex process that requires commitment, participation and
coordination from all possible institutions, individuals and organizations. MPA for OSA seeks
cooperative efforts to support our initiative from partners and involved
organizations, the private sector and government.
Helping a stranded dolphin we named Grace.
To initiate the creation of a Marine Education and Research Center that will:• Support the creation of environmental and protective laws towards marine eco-systems and its resources and creating protected marine areas
• Help preserve the representative natural environments of the area and its’ more fragile ecosystems in order to guarantee the equilibrium and continuity of such marine mega-ecosystem
• Guarantee the sustainable use of natural resources encouraging the active participation of local communities
• Support, promote and carry out scientific studies related to marine resources, especially those related to marine mammals and sea turtles.
• Carry out educational projects on these animals and contribute to the creation of an environmental awareness about marine resources
• Create a web of information, documentation and reference on local marine life with educational purposes.
• Stimulate and support other organizations and institutions that may share our goals.
• Implement varied educative activities with and for the local community (workshops, courses, presentations of the use of new technologies, GPS, data collecting, first aid for a beached or hurt cetacean and others).
• Develop educational programs and informative materials for kids, tourists and research (Osa marine mammals ID catalogs, Interaction Guidelines for Tourists, Photo Id catalogs for Research use)
• Carry out environmental campaigns: waste and harmful chemical reduction in homes and hotels, beach cleaning, recycling etc.
• Promote regulated eco-tourism specially oriented towards cetaceans watching in their natural habitats.
• Support the certification of tour operators and tour guides involved in Whale and Dolphin watching, and contribute to the establishment of adequate whale and dolphin watching activities and to guidelines for appropriate interaction
• Continue the monitoring and collection of sighting data in order to maintain the health and sustainability of the MPA as well as write and submit scientific articles and conduct studies that contribute to a better understanding of marine mammals.
• Monitor, report and help prosecute illegal activities
From 1999 to 2008, Delfin Amor Eco Lodge, a small hotel nestled in the heart of Drake Bay, closed in 2008 to focus on marine activities exclusively, in conjunction with the Vida Marina Foundation, collected sighting data on their dolphin and whale educational research tours. Delfin Amor’s tours, now run by The Divine Dolphin, are conducted year round, with a higher percentage of tours in the “dry season,” December through April.
During our research tours, we counted and document the location of turtles, dead and alive, as well as commercial fishing boats and long lines. Also documented were the dolphins’ and whales’ group size, ages, and also their travel and feeding patterns and behaviors. Digital photos and video were also taken to further document and identify the dolphins, whales, turtles and commercial fishing activities. With the data analysis we have carried out, we have documented an alarming 79% decrease in the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) population during the last several years.
Our solid scientific database allows us to generate reports and graphs that demonstrate the variety of species found here and the need to protect them. The sighting data collected by our marine biologists and volunteers on our tours is entered into the computer database. The information generated from this database, along with comprehensive knowledge of the marine resources in the area, will serve as the basis for the development of the protected area, control and protection measures, designation of local capacity building projects, and regional planning in general.
A marine biologist on the Vida Marina team prepared a technical interpretation of the data collected during the past years, and developed an unprecedented study of marine mammals in Costa Rican waters off the Osa Peninsula. The costs and resources invested in such work were a contribution from Delfín Amor Eco Lodge and several grants, but now that Delfin Amor no longer exists, we seek funds to continue our important research and data collection and need your help to do that.
Our published scientific documents are:
Budgets and Funding
Our previous research and data collection was funded by profits from Delfin Amor Eco Lodge, which now does not exist, and donations to our foundation, Vida Marina. The foundation’s biggest funder lost their fortune in the Bernie Madoff scandal, just when we were about to receive a grant of $250,000 and as a result, our foundation could no longer stay afloat. We are now in need of researchers, marine biologists, research equipment and materials in order to continue the collection of data for written scientific reports both supporting the MPA initiative and once established, maintaining it and enforcing laws and regulations within.
Recording data on our research tours
Phase I of our project includes continuing data collection, including Photo ID and video evidence, and comparing it with our previous data to generate reports and graphs on the current state of the ocean off the Osa Peninsula. We will gather signatures for an online Petition in support of the MPA and coordinate meetings with all concerned parties in the communities affected by the borders of the proposed MPA and the local government for input and strategy and completing an Implementation and Management Plan for the Marine Protected Area.
Earth Island Institute has graciously donated a high tech hydrophone and digital recording system to us, but we need much more to carry out our research and to take the steps necessary towards creating the MPA.
All equipment purchased in Phase I will be used for all other phases and beyond. If all funds are not received, we will purchase the most important equipment and move forward the best we can with what we have.
Our budget and requested funds are as follows:
HOW YOU CAN HELP US
You can help us to conserve these incredible animals by donating whatever you can – no donation is too small, every dollar is a step closer to reaching our goal.
We passionately believe that your contribution will help to make a huge difference to the conservation and protection of the dolphins, whales, sea turtles and all marine life of the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Together we have the opporunity to preserve an entire marine eco system that desperately needs our help to survive.
As well as donations, please help us to spread the word and share this page with all of your friends and be sure to SIGN AND SHARE OUR PETITION:
FOLLOW OUR PROGRESS
If you would like to keep up to date with our projects and the creation of the Marine Protected Area, please FOLLOW US: