Conservation Group Ups Osa Peninsula Presence

February 27, 2009

For poachers who steal from inside the marine protected areas of the OsaPeninsula in southwestern Costa Rica, trouble is on the horizon. MarViva, an ocean conservation organization that patrols the seas of Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia, has now put some of the Osa Conservation Area’s (ACOSA) marine areas under its watchful eye.

To help the region’s communities understand its mission, MarViva and its scientific arm, the Keto Foundation, composed of marine specialists and divers, recently gave presentations to the towns and villages bordering ACOSA. More than 70 percent of the residents of the north and west OsaPeninsula live mainly from the sea, according to MarViva.

For the town of Agujitas, on the southwest side of DrakeBay, MarViva gave two presentations: one day for guides, captains, park guards and fishermen, and the next day for hotel and tour-operator managers and owners.

The first day, the community hall of Agujitas was packed with more than 40 people who asked more than two hours’ worth of questions to the responsive and knowledgeable MarViva communications team. Most of the questions centered around why so little area is under MarViva patrol, why the tuna fleet is still dropping explosives on and killing dolphins daily offshore, and how citizens can aid in documenting poaching.

The MarViva representatives explained that they are there only to patrol the protected areas and then call the Coast Guard if enforcement is necessary. The tuna fleet operates beyond MarViva’s patrol area, and the Coast Guard rarely patrols offshore, where the dolphins live. With the aid of radar and helicopters, the tuna fleet can see any boat approaching from more than an hour away, making catching the fleet in its daily, illegal encircling, ensnaring, bombing and killing of dolphins extremely unlikely. Most of the guides and captains expressed their intention to take a future course by MarViva and Keto on exactly how to take evidence that might stand up in court against the wealthy and legally experienced commercial fishing interests.

The next day, MarViva and Keto briefed the handful of local hotel managers and tour operators who showed up at their presentation. After taking questions, the team again showed a video, gave out coffee, juice, chocolate pastries and cookies, and continued to get to know the locals.

“It’s nice to see them working with the community, everybody together. Unity is strength,” said Carlos Gonzales, manager and guide for DrakeBay’s Aguila de Osa Lodge. “I think a live dolphin is worth a lot more than a dead one.”

José Rodríguez, control and surveillance manager for MarViva, said the concern of the DrakeBay communities was refreshing and different from the response in other places, where some people see the MarViva patrols as a threat to their ability to take all they want from the oceans. Members of MarViva have received serious threats of violence in the Pacific port of Puntarenas, Rodríguez said.

Protection headquarters for ACOSA will now be the Phoenix, the MarViva ship outfitted not only to patrol the area but also to assist scientists and conservationists with their work off the Osa. MarViva will also be facilitating small loans for locals who want to open eco-businesses such as diving, snorkeling or kayaking operations.

MarViva’s new presence is not just an important step in protecting the Osa’s marine resources – it is a giant leap forward.

Contact Shawn at 8886-9431 or shawndive@yahoo.com, or visit www.costacetacea.com

 

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