PUERTO CALDERA, Puntarenas – Before departing on her epic, day-long boat ride to Costa Rica’s far-flung ocean territory, Isla del Coco, President Laura Chinchilla stopped off at the Caldera Coast Guard base for the inauguration of the island’s new radar system.
“I’m heading to Isla del Coco with great excitement,” Chinchilla said during a speech on Thursday.
“This territory is our most distant one geographically, but the closest in my environmental priorities. This is both the longest and most important trip of my presidency,” she said.
Located 330 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Isla del Coco is known for its large numbers of hammerhead sharks, illegal fishermen and drug traffickers. With the new radar station, Costa Rican law enforcement will be able – for the first time – to identify and track intruding boats in real time.
The now fully functional radar is powered by its own hydroelectric plant, built by the National Power and Light Company (CNFL) to cause as little environmental impact as possible. The three-year endeavor cost nearly $4 million and was funded by taxpayers and the nongovernmental environmental organizations Costa Rica Por Siempre and Conservation International.
Isla del Coco’s radar adds to 16 other stations planned for Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first, located at the Caldera Coast Guard base, has been functional since August. The coastal radar can track boats for the first 50 nautical miles from shore and improves radio communications between boats. The Caldera radar was funded by the U.S. State Department at a price tag of $25,000.