The Pacific side of Costa Rica is the vital breeding and breeding grounds of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that migrate from both North and South America. It is the only place in the world where Humpback Whales come from two different hemispheres to have their babies and breed. Humpbacks have been sighted in every month of the year, giving us the longest season of Humpbacks in the world. For these reasons alone, the area should be protected but yet they are met by long lines, gill nets and shrimp boats, putting them in danger of entanglement and noise pollution. This is no way to treat an endangered species.
These biologically intense Costa Rican Pacific waters host more than twenty-six species of marine mammals from the Cetacean Order (dolphins and whales). Some of the species with a bigger presence in the area are the Pantropical Spotted Dolphins (Stenella attenuata), the Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) and the Spinner Dolphins (Stenella Longirostris). The Spinner Dolphins found here are a sub-species of Spinner Dolphins found only off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in a 90 mile wide band of ocean. They are hence called Costa Rica Spinner Dolphins, our very own species. But yet they are netted relentlessly by the tuna boats, mostly foreign fleets.
The dolphins are distributed in a heterogeneous manner, from smaller groups with two or three individuals in coastal waters, to pods of thousands of individuals in deeper oceanic waters. Also Roughtooth Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins, Pseudo Orcas, Pilot Whales, Orcas, Bryde’s Whales, Fin Whales and Sei Whales are commonly seen in these waters.
Most of Costa Rica’s coral reefs are found on the Osa Peninsula and Caño Island. Their importance lays on the great diversity of fish, mollusks and crustaceans that are associated with them. This coral richness is subject to different impacts produced by human action that must be regulated and controlled. Extractions of corals and other resources associated with them such as lobster, octopuses and oysters, are depleting these populations and some other invertebrate populations. Furthermore, the increase of irresponsible and uncontrolled “ecotourism” has created a bigger impact with activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and boat anchoring in restricted areas, unknowledgeable people in protected areas or rangers without the resources necessary to carry out their duty.
Fish are a resource that generates great commercial activity, however in this area only few families live off private or artisanal fishing. Fleets from nearby harbors, like Puntarenas, Quepos, Golfo de Nicoya and Golfo Dulce, plus the foreign fleets, are the one that exploit the area’s resources. This fishing is undertaken illegally in Caño Island’s protected waters, Terraba Sierpe mangroves, right in front of Corcovado National Park, and in coastline waters of the Osa Peninsula.
Four out of the eight sea turtles species in the world are found in the Pacific side of Costa Rica. UICN finds these four sea turtle species to be in a critical state or in danger of extinction. The sea turtles’ threats are mainly overexploitation of eggs and shells, the changing and destruction of sea turtles’ natural habitats, pollution, and the incidental capture of turtles by commercial and traditional fishing boats. Through the data collected on our research tours, we have discovered that in the last four years, the population of the Olive Ridley Sea turtle has decreased an alarming 79%.
The Terraba-Sierpe National Mangroves, where you can find the largest mangrove forest in Costa Rica, was declared a World Interest RAMSAR site and extends over 16.700 Hectares. These ecosystems present a high degree of productivity and are considered of great importance for the protection of a large number of animals and vegetation. Mangroves are bearers of an unbelievable diversity of marine, estuary, fresh water micro-climates and land food chains. They are of key importance to protect coastlines from storms and wave erosion and prevent sedimentation on coral reef areas. In the Terraba-Sierpe we have a register of 81 mollusks species, 10 crustacean species, 5 shrimp species of commercial importance and several kinds of crabs and lobsters. One of the main threats that grow every year is over-fishing. Individuals that may not even be apt for reproduction are extracted mindlessly. Some other activities such as fisheries, urban expansion, roads, bridges and illegal fishing are some of those main elements threatening and causing the degradation of these ecosystems.