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Costa Rica
Friday, October 15, 2021

Costa Rica strengthens Cocos Island protections

The Cocos Marine Conservation Area (ACMC) this month signed agreements with two organizations in order to improve the protection of Isla del Coco, an island 550 km southwest of the Costa Rican mainland.

The ACMC, a division of the Environment Ministry (MINAE), will collaborate with MarViva to “generate benefits in the management of marine and island space, strengthening conservation, research and monitoring of biodiversity,” according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

A separate agreement with the U.S.-based WildAid conservation group will “provide technical assistance and training over the next 5 years to strengthen control and surveillance actions in coastal marine areas.”

“Being able to obtain this support commits us much more to taking care of the National Park, which we know is the pride of all Costa Ricans,” said Gina Cuza, director of the ACMC.

The waters surrounding Cocos Island are inhabited by at least 1,688 marine species, 45 of them endemic. The area between Cocos Island and the Galápagos Islands is a “vital migration route” for sharks, turtles and other species, conservation groups say.

A 2018 report identified “excessive fishing pressure, … much of which is illegal” in the protected areas around Cocos Island.

“Fishing pressures in the marine protected area and surrounding area were largely from foreign fleets,” Amigos de la Isla del Coco explained.

More recently, the United States has cited Costa Rica for activities related to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, though their findings didn’t specifically correspond to Cocos Island.

Cocos Island was declared a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site in 1997. It has been a national park since 1978.

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