In order to protect new sites of marine conservation interest, the government and environmentalists seek to expand the marine territory of Cocos Island, while the fishing sector – artisanal, longliner, purse seine fishing and tourist fishing – expresses their opposition to the plan. at a time when the final stretch of the process begins.
Located 535 kilometers from the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the Cocos Marine Conservation Area represents a natural treasure not only for Costa Rica, but for the planet. The protected area includes the Isla del Coco National Park and the Submarine Mountains Marine Management Area.
Since 2017, the process to expand the territory of the protected area began and although it is assumed that the final phase has already started, the truth of the matter is that the setbacks and opposition of the fishing sector have complicated the project.
The Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco, one of the most important allies of the National Park, has been a vital support for scientific studies, through resources and donations that they have managed during this process.
Important for Costa Rica and the planet
“Cocos Island is important for Costa Rica and the planet, it is home to 2,600 species, of which there are species that are unique in the world, both marine and terrestrial. The importance of promoting this project has to do not only with what the island represents, but also with what it has around it,” said Alejandra Villalobos, director of the Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco.
The authorities of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area are aware of the importance that these scientific studies have played in defining where and how much the protection of these marine protected areas should be increased.
Aspects of employment, research, tourism and transportation were also considered for the initial proposal and the recent consultation that was made to various sectors involved with Isla del Coco, who also gave contributions for the consolidation of the project.
Not to affect the fishing situation
Due to the fact that part of the fishing sector has expressed disagreement, Gina Cuza, director of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area, argues that the intention of the project is not to affect the fishing situation, much less the families that depend on this activity. Likewise, she considers that the area is so wide that there should not be any type of conflict, because there will always be production and fishing.
“If you look at the map of Costa Rica and that of Isla del Coco, and all that it encompasses, the strong part of the information that Incopesca generated for us, the strong part of the fishing is very close to the coast of the country and the We are doing conservation issues 500 or more kilometers from the coast and that does not affect the fishermen in the least, we do not hinder their fishing management”, said Cuza.
Strengthen the protection of natural resources
Faced with the eventual growth of the marine territory, it will also be necessary to find the means to strengthen the protection of natural resources, a situation that the authorities recognize that they are already working on.
“We have worked with the Minister (Environment and Energy) and with the executive director of the National System of Conservation Areas, in such a way that the need for how many more people are required can be managed and justified before the Treasury, in such a way that be a State commitment ”, added the director of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area.
In addition to the efforts initiated with the government, they are looking for resources at the international level to support the financing of the conservation, control and protection actions that are required.
There are even advances with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute to have better connectivity and shortly, the registration process of a new vessel for the protection of the area will be completed.
After conducting a public consultation and a formal consultation with the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Energy will analyze the observations received by the different sectors, to give way to the drafting of a final proposal.
After this, the analyzes will be carried out before the Regional Council of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area and before the National Council of Conservation Areas, for the legal review and preparation of the signing of the decree.
Some $ 51 million a year in economic benefits, divided into $ 19 million for tourism in the Isla del Coco National Park, $ 21 million a year for sport fishing and $ 10 million for longline fishing, are estimates of the economic wealth of the protected area, according to a A study carried out by the National University estimated that the Cocos Marine Conservation Area.