San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

No-take zones: The big picture

Economists around the world recommend savings accounts as a hedge against unpredictable events in the future. No-take marine zones, where no extraction of wildlife is permitted, are savings accounts of biodiversity. That’s why every nation should safeguard some percentage of their marine resources in areas where no one can take things. 

Shawn Larkin

Shawn Larkin

Scientists around the world know that no-take zones increase marine biodiversity and density. Contrary to what may fishermen think, no-take zones increase catches, especially for local fishermen. By keeping a small suite of ecosystems safe, communities can better ensure long-term economic stability. And make more money.

Two scientists have said that a no-take zone might be crucial to the survival of Costa Rican hammerhead sharks at Coco Island National Park. They say any kind of fishing in the area could be detrimental to the sharks, who are already declining under pressure from overfishing. But the no-take zone may actually need to extend beyond Cocos Island.

The two young marine biologists discovered that the famous hammerhead sharks of Cocos Island grow up somewhere else. So even though the island was made a no-take zone long ago to protect the sharks and other marine life, it’s a different place needs that needs to add a no-take zone. The organization, Misión Tiburón, has helped us discover that sharks around the island, hundreds of miles off coast, spent their youth in waters around the roots of mangroves on mainland Osa Peninsula.

Misión Tiburón leadership has said that if the Osa peninsula is overfished, the sharks of Cocos Island National Park will be adversely affected. Their work illustrates fantastically the interconnected network of bio services produced from biodiversity. Before dedicated researchers prove these things, most of these ecosystem connections are probably beyond the comprehension of most developers. A recent study demonstrated on an offshore Pacific Island that when native palms on the beach grew scarce, manta rays living offshore disappeared.

Loss of palms meant loss of bird nests, resulting in a loss of bird droppings, which in turn meant less food to the soil. That led to nutrient-depleted rivers flowing to the sea, where the plankton had nothing to eat, so the manta rays said, “see ya,” because mantas eat plankton.

And if you look at the big picture, you will see that not having no-take zones on the Osa Peninsula might soon mean no sharks at Cocos Island.

The recently announced, wonderful big blue plans of Costa Rica to protect the waters and the seas need to include new no-take zones, big time.

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