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It is urgent to protect the route between Cocos and Galápagos because outside these protected areas endangered species are very vulnerable to industrial and illegal fishing.
- Cocos Island National Park photo -

Published Thursday, May 6, 2021

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A team of 15 scientists led by MigraMar, a foundation headquartered in California, U.S., began their expedition to protect the migration route of marine species between the islands of Cocos, located in the maritime zone of the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica and Galápagos, located in the maritime zone of the Pacific Ocean of Ecuador.

"The investigation from this expedition will provide further important scientific evidence on migration between Marine Protected Areas by marine species such as whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and other sharks, stingrays, whales and other marine mammals, and fish such as billfish and tuna," Alex Hearn, leader of the expedition said.

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, which is the maritime zone between the two islands, is guarded by the governments of Costa Rica and Ecuador. The expedition will follow the migratory route made by marine species between both islands, which were declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

According to the park rangers of Cocos Island, it is urgent to protect the route between Cocos and Galápagos because outside these protected areas endangered species are very vulnerable to industrial and illegal fishing.

Specialists estimate that 100 million sharks die in the world each year as a result of fishing or accidental deaths caused by humans. The ocean between Galápagos and Cocos is a popular location for industrial fishing fleets, including those engaged in shark finning, which is the act of removing fins from sharks and discarding the rest of the shark back into the ocean.

"The mission of the team is to gather more scientific evidence to urge authorities to take decisive action on the level of protection necessary to save one of the most important and impressive marine migration highways on the planet and the world-famous essential places that connect," they said in their statement.

Onboard the 134-foot Fins Attached Foundation scientific vessel named M/Y Sharkwater, the expedition set sail on May 3 from Quepos Beach, in Puntarenas Province, heading for Cocos Island, and then sailing to the island of San Cristóbal, which is located in the Galápagos Islands, in Ecuador, where they will arrive on May 12.

The expedition will return to Quepos Beach on May 23. The round-turn trip is estimated to last 20 days and cover 1,500 nautical miles.

MigraMar scientists explained that the expedition will stop at six defined locations where the marking (to be detected by satellite and sound) of fish and marine mammals will take place.

They will also conduct an underwater video study, counting biodiversity through sightings and taking DNA samples.

The designated locations for these research activities are the Fila del Coco, Coco Occidental and Gemelas seamounts in Cocos Island, as well as the Medina and Paramount seamounts and Darwin Island in theGalápagos.
According to scientists, planning for this expedition began almost two years ago by the MigraMar and Fins Attached foundations, which are co-sponsoring the expedition.

Among other organizations that financed the expedition are the Cocos Marine Conservation Area, Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation, Galapagos Conservation Trust, Galapagos Science Center, Ocean Blue Tree, Only One, Sea Legacy, Shark Conservation Fund and Turtle Island Restoration Network.

In Costa Rica, commercial activities such as shark finning, importing of fins and transporting, transferring and carrying of fins within a boat are forbidden since 2012.

The fishing license will be canceled to the person in charge or owner of the boat, foreign or national, with respect for due process, who for the first time or with recurrence unloads, transport, import, transfer and carry shark fins inside the boat, according to the Marine Species Protection decree.

Authorities encourage citizens to report any suspicious illegal fishing to line 1192.


What have you heard about fishermen committing the crime of shark finning in Costa Rica?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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