Too many whale-watching boats in Costa Rica’s Ballena Nat’l Marine Park, say environment officials

August 13, 2014
1 Comments

An increase in the number of whale-watching tours in southern Costa Rica’s Ballena National Marine Park has prompted officials from the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) to increase monitoring and regulation in the area.

A large number of tourist boats could threaten the presence of whales, dolphins, stingrays and sharks in the park, located near Uvita on the Pacific coast, environment officials said. Biologists consider the protected area a perfect location between the northern and southern hemispheres for the birth of new generations of marine mammals and other species.

On their arrival, whales enter into a trance, and any abrupt change to their natural habitat could cause them to migrate to other areas with less suitable conditions for giving birth to calves – a direct threat to their species, biologists say.

“Ballena National Marine Park is a maternity ward for many species that are affected by bad practices from the tourism sector, such as disrespecting the distance from which to watch the whales or the use of unsuitable boat engines whose excessive noise alters the species’ behavior,” said Zdenka Pisculich, director of the nongovernmental conservation group “Asociación Costa Rica por Siempre.”

This week the NGO donated ₡40 million ($75,000) to SINAC​​ for equipment and other resources to improve surveillance of tourism vessels during the area’s high season, which reaches its peak in September.

The investment is part of $240,000 that SINAC plans to spend over the next two years in the Osa Conservation Area, which comprises the protected areas of Ballena National Marine Park, Piedras Blancas National Park, Corcovado National Park and Caño Island Biological Reserve, the agency reported.

SINAC’s increased surveillance also aims at enforcing the Fisheries and Aquaculture Law #8436, which calls for fines and penalties of up to three years in prison “for those who pursue, capture, injure, kill or trade marine mammals, or endangered and protected marine species.”

Tourism is one of the main sources of income for the Osa region. Residents of the Ballena Bay area each year hold a traditional Whale Festival to mark the annual visit of humpback whales to the Ballena National Marine Park.

The festival is held over two weekends, and this year it is scheduled for Sept. 5-7 and Sept. 12-14. Activities include whale-watching tours, athletics and cycling races, sand-sculpture contests, photography exhibits, concerts and environmental workshops and lectures.

The Ballena National Park covers an area of 110 hectares of land and 5,375 marine hectares. It was created in 1989 and currently receives humpback whales, common and bottlenose dolphins, stingrays and hammerhead sharks.

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

HolaLola: Capturing Costa Rica’s essence in art
Pic of the Day
154 views
Pic of the Day
154 views

HolaLola: Capturing Costa Rica’s essence in art

Alissa Grosskopf - October 23, 2018

You have probably seen Priscilla Aguirre's art at HolaLola before. It captures the beauty of Costa Rica's nature and culture…

Five things I learned while watching the sun set over El Clásico
Soccer
934 views
Soccer
934 views

Five things I learned while watching the sun set over El Clásico

Alejandro Zúñiga - October 22, 2018

TIBÁS — It’s difficult to enjoy a spectacular sunset while the concrete grandstand of a 50-year-old stadium shakes haphazardly under…

The Tico Times Weekly Digest: Oct. 22, 2018
Tico Times Weekly Digest
474 views
Tico Times Weekly Digest
474 views

The Tico Times Weekly Digest: Oct. 22, 2018

Alexander Villegas - October 22, 2018

It's Monday everyone. That means it's time for another dose of The Tico Times Weekly Digest. This week's Digest is…