Three protected areas off Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast have a new guardian angel.
Joint boat patrols between the government and the environmental organization MarViva began this week in the waters of the CorcovadoNational Park, the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve and the BallenaNationalMarinePark.
The remote BallenaNational Park is south of Dominical. Isla del Caño is off the OsaPeninsula, further south along the coast, while Corcovado encompasses much of the peninsula, and its boundary extends southwest from the coast.
MarViva has worked extensively with the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) and Costa Rica’s Coast Guard to patrol the Las Baulas National Park, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, and the Isla del Coco National Park, an island about 585 kilometers off the Pacific coast.
The patrols have tried to deter illegal fishing in the largely unprotected and biologically rich waters and recently caught a commercial fishing boat with more than 200 metric tons of yellowfin tuna in its hold.
The captain and the owner of that boat, called the Tiuna, were ordered to pay more than $668,000 in fines last week (TT, Sept 26). According to MarViva, the threats along the southern Pacific include unchecked fishing, pollution and unregulated tourism.
“Whale and dolphin watching with no controls, diving in corals and reefs without respect for basic regulations and sportfishing in prohibited areas have a negative impact and break the equilibrium of the ecosystem, affecting the reproduction of the species,” MarViva said in a statement this week.
The Osa Peninsula is one of the richest regions in the world in biodiversity, boasting 2 percent of the animal and plant species found around the world, MarViva said.
For the next three months, the patrols will be “preventive,” with officials explaining to people the laws, the reasons to protect the area and the possible fines and sanctions faced if the laws and regulations are broken.
Beginning in January, the patrols will begin in full force, and violators will be prosecuted, MarViva said.