Conservationists and government officials met Wednesday morning to announce the construction of a radar station on a remote island national park that authorities believe will strengthen maritime security and coastal conservation efforts.
The new radar station, the first of 16 along Costa Rica’s shoreline, will sit atop a hill on Isla del Coco, a small island 330 miles off the Pacific coast that is home to one of the country’s most famous and environmentally sensitive attractions.
“It would have probably been easier to build the first radar station along the Pacific coast,” observed Public Security Minister Mario Zamora, “but we chose Isla del Coco because it was the part of the country most affected by illegal fishing and the paths of drug boats.”
The minister added that previous patrols to the far-flung island were largely ineffectual because of the lack of information about when trespassers were in the park’s waters.
“Our patrols would reach [Isla del Coco] and then turn around. Almost all of the high-seas territory went without patrols. This technology will allow us to see 100 miles out and allow us to more effectively assign resources at sea.”
Zdenka Piskulich Crespo, president of Costa Rica por Siempre, one of the nongovernmental organizations that helped fund the project, told The Tico Times that the radar installation promises to improve security for guards in the park, famous for its hammerhead sharks, and improve the effectiveness of Coast Guard patrols.
“One of the great advantages of this strategy is that the surveillance and security of the parks will not only be in the hands of national park guards, who don’t have all the tools [to handle armed poachers and drug traffickers] but also involve the Coast Guard, who do have the capacity to face these kinds of threats,” said the conservationist.
Costa Rica’s national parks have become increasingly dangerous places to work as park guards face illegal fishermen, gold miners and poachers, The Tico Times previously reported.
Vice Minister of Water and Oceans José Lino Chaves told reporters that the radar facility’s construction would have minimal environmental impact. Government representatives said that low-impact, renewable energy sources, including solar panels and a small hydroelectric plant yet to be built would power the island’s surveillance station.
The radar facility will be completed in February 2014, according to a press release. The Costa Rican Coast Guard will operate the facility.
Public Security Minister Zamora said there are plans to build another radar station in Caldera, a Pacific port in Puntarenas, and another at the Public Security Ministry offices.
The Japanese Embassy, Costa Rica por Siempre, and Conservation International raised the funds for the $2 million project in the national park.