Costa Rica’s Cocos Island has been designated as a “Blue Park” by the Marine Conservation Institute, the organization announced this week.
The distinction highlights “the world’s best protected places in the ocean and the people who care about them.”
After the park was nominated in July, a science council evaluated of Cocos Island’s biodiversity value, Costa Rica’s conservation efforts, ecosystem representation and other criteria. The National Park was given a platinum-tier ranking — the highest possible award.
“As a habitat for more than 300 species of marine fish, 600 species of marine mollusks, 800 species of insects, 130 species of birds, five species of freshwater fish and 500 species of plants, Cocos Island is home to almost 50% of the endemism in Costa Rica,” the Marine Conservation Institute says. “Additionally, one of the largest congregations of the scalloped hammerhead shark occurs in Cocos Island National Park.
“The waters of Cocos Island are highly productive, due to its location at the intersection of the Panama Current and the Pacific Equatorial Countercurrent. The convergence of these currents, combined with the various ecosystems in the area such as coral reefs, deep-sea pelagic ecosystems and shallow waters, have made Cocos Island an extraordinary habitat.”
The Marine Conservation Institute offers select Blue Parks — which were formerly known as Global Ocean Refuges — funding for further protection and sustainable tourism development.
“This is another recognition of the efforts our country has historically made to protect biodiversity and motivates us to strengthen work in the oceans, one of the main challenges we have,” said President Carlos Alvarado. “This legacy is the fruit of the labor of those who were before us and made visionary decisions that today set us as an example worldwide.”
A United States-based nonprofit, Marine Conservation Institute was founded in 1996 and focuses on “bridging the gap between scientists who understand marine ecosystems and policy makers who determine their fate.”
Cocos Island is located 532 km from Cabo Blanco, Puntarenas. It was designated as a UNESCO Natural Heritage for Humanity Site in 1997 after lobbying from the Costa Rican government and the nonprofit Friends of Cocos Island (FAICO).