Ocean Productivity Good

September 24, 2004

MANY questionshave come inlately asking aboutthe diversity diversand snorkelers seeswimming in CostaRica. Is Costa Ricathe most biodiversemarine areain the world? No.Most divers drop inCosta Rica to seeepic tropical oceanproductivity, notthe world’s bestmarine biodiversity.There is a persistent error made onWeb pages and in some publications. CostaRica’s famous terrestrial biodiversity isoften confused as extending to the oceansas well. The teeming rain forests risingfrom the Caribbean to above 10,000 feetand back down to the Pacific boast hundredsof kinds of hardwood trees, as wellas its accompanying throng of residentsfrom the meeting of two continents. TheTalamanca and Coastal mountain ranges,together with the Osa Peninsula, are theworld’s hotspot for total number of speciesin such a small land area.The planet’s equivalent marine biodiversityhotspot lies in the Indo Pacific,where species of reef inhabitants on somesmall islands number well into four digits.Costa Rica’s dive sites do not rank even inthe top thousand in the world for diversity.Costa Rica’s Caribbean diving shows agreater biodiversity than the Pacific. Butnowhere in the Caribbean compares to theIndo Pacific’s species counts. Even CostaRica’s Caribbean and Pacific together donot come close. Costa Rica’s Pacificwaters do rank in most divers top 10 forproductivity.PRODUCTIVITY of a few dozenspecies of fish can be compared to peopleat a rock concert – a fog of fish can obscureyour buddies, the bottom and the surface.And with so many fish around, a lot of fishget big. Being surrounded by fish is onething, when each fish is as big as you theexperience appears more impressive. Acouple dozen species of dolphins andwhales, some by the thousands, alsoappear to appreciate Costa Rica’s Pacificproductivity.Costa Rica’s Caribbean does not havenearly as many fish or marine mammals,but does grow a greater diversity of marinelife, including more corals, sponges, algae,invertebrates and fish species.Agreater selection of critters is around,but you usually see just a few of each. Butto the uninitiated, the Caribbean reefs mayseem like the most productive place onearth and now is the time to see it.This time of year usually offers the bestdiving on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.Hurricanes in the north Caribbean suck allthe rain and moisture away from CostaRica’s coast, making the diving even better.Most of Costa Rica got extra rain fromwater dumped on the Pacific slope as theair rose to feed the hurricanes on the otherside of the mountains.When a cool dry breeze blows downthe Talamanca, the south Caribbean has itsbest weather – and best diving and snorkeling.Reports are of dream-like divingand snorkeling between Limón and PuntaMona.THE South Pacific Caño Island experienceda few weeks of some of the worstconditions in many years. Extremely heavyriver runoff from the North Osa rivermouths created the biggest brown waterarea many locals remember. The water waschocolate colored for many miles all theway to Caño Island (22 kilometers or 12nautical miles). The water was strewn withtrash of all sorts, including medical waste,chairs, diapers and much more. Multipledead whales and dolphins washed ashoreduring this time period. It would seem acloser look at what is going into CostaRica’s rivers might be worth furtherinspection.The initial heavy rains seem to havecleaned out the rivers resulting in a morenormal brown water distribution off theOsa, and Caño Island visibility hadimproved greatly at press time from someof its murkiest water in many years. Noreports as to whether the dirty water affectedGuanacaste. Divers, please, let meknow.As usual now is the time to go diving inCosta Rica. Contact 835-6041, or e-mailcostacetacea@hotmail.com for informationor with contributions to the report. Emailreplies will take a week or more. TheICE cell phone tower in Drake Bay on theOsa has been broken for around 15 days,sorry for delays.

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