Artificial reefs have become a key step towards the recovery of marine life in Costa Rica, thanks to their benefits for maintaining fish diversity, prevent erosion, and create a protection corridor.
One of these projects is located in Playa Blanca, province of Puntarenas (Pacific), a five-star site with an ecological blue flag for the cleanliness of its waters, where 14 bell-type structures have been placed, weighing between 250 and 600 kilos, which have become a habitat for many species.
The structures were created with marine cement, which has two different additives that allow the ease of adherence of marine life, this gives better oxygenation and balances the pH so that algae, shells, and mosses can adhere and create a habitat more friendly.
“Costa Rica has more blue territory than green, and reforestation campaigns have been more recurrent, but in the blue part we are in debt to the ocean, and have two wonderful coasts and thought it was time to look towards the ocean and now we want to do it by reforesting the oceans,” César Vargas, manager of the company that carries out the project.
Climate change with serious effects
Experts have stated that in recent years the productivity of rocky areas has suffered alterations due to climate change, sediment movement, or overexploitation of fishing resources.
Therefore, this type of initiative becomes a step towards recovery, because it creates refuges, increases the availability of the substrate for the fixation of algae, small mollusks, and crustaceans, which serve as food for many marine species and allows to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Benefits Of Artificial Reefs
“The advantages of this type of reef are that they provide stability in the substrate due to its bell shape and weight, promote a high diversity of fish that makes it a tourist attraction, and also helps in sedimentation so that the elements are suspended in the water remain trapped in structures. Their disadvantage is cost and durability because it can reach 30 years,” explained Carlos Pérez, a biologist at the state National Institute of Learning who is part of the project.
The objective of the initiative is to reach 200 structures to create a type of marine biological corridor that allows the passage of species between the natural reefs that already exist in the area. The next stage, parallel to artificial reefs, is the placement of coral cultures in special systems so that they can grow.
The project, in addition to protecting and maintaining biodiversity, will serve as a spearhead to create environmental education, and promote sustainable tourism, since visitors will be able to carry out recreational activities in the area such as snorkeling or diving, and at the same time learn how it works. the ecosystem, how fragile the marine area is, and how bad practices in the city have an impact on the coasts.
According to diving experts, in the area you can find parrotfish, currently at risk of extinction, and which are essential for the balance of the ecosystem because they eat algae to prevent them from growing excessively. Also, in the area, there are lobsters, octopus, oysters, cambute, white tip sharks, hawksbill, green and parrot turtles, indicators that the ecosystem is healing.
“When people enter the water, it allows them to generate awareness that there is another world, that colors are different, time runs differently and it is an activity that creates awareness in people,” explained the biologist and diving instructor of Dive Costa Rica, David Astudillo.
Conservation In Debt
Costa Rica, a country that is 10 times larger in its marine territory than in its land, has been internationally characterized by its image of promoting sustainable tourism and protecting the environment. In its land and insular area, it protects a total of 13,030.55 square kilometers, for 25.5% of its total territory, and its goal is to reach 30%. But in marine areas, the country protects 15,501.92 square kilometers, 2.7% of its extension, far from the 10% that was the international commitment to 2020.
This artificial reef project in a public-private partnership, in which the environmental organization MareBlu also participates, has allowed the country to advance in marine research and begin its transformation process to maintain and protect the biological wealth in the sea.
The positive response of the project and the benefits shown has allowed the state National Learning Institute to start the creation of an Artificial Reef Protocol with guidelines for its installation, with technical-scientific studies.
Costa Rica tried a similar project in the 90s, but at that time they did not have the most suitable raw material. In the country, there are other projects such as sinking ships, or the use of porcelain structures, but these made of marine cement are unique at the national level.