Studying the Las Gemelas and West Cocos seamounts, which are part of the Cocos Volcanic Mountain Range, was the objective of a new tour carried out by a group of scientists.
More than 500 kilometers away from the Costa Rican coast, between the Cocos Island National Park and the Galapagos National Park, in Ecuador, the researchers collected data to study the distribution, variety, and quantity of sharks, tuna, and other pelagic species (species that spend most of their time in environments far from the coast).
With 132 underwater remote cameras placed on metal structures with bait to attract predators and other technological tools, they managed to measure the size of the animals, a very important parameter to analyze the health of their populations. “Preliminary results tell us that seamounts are a hot spot for marine biodiversity. With these data that we are analyzing and those that we are going to collect in future expeditions, we will be able to better understand how the health status of these pelagic species changes and define effective strategies to guarantee their protection”, said Marta Cambra, marine biologist and researcher at the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR).
At least 14 species were detected in pelagic environments
Preliminary findings show at least 14 species detected in pelagic environments, including threatened species such as the hammerhead, thresher and silky sharks, in addition to striped and black marlin, yellow fin tuna, dolphins, and other species of small fish. Additionally, sharks were only detected in those cameras placed near the seamounts compared to the cameras placed at a certain distance from them, thus confirming their importance as species aggregation sites.
For Mario Espinoza, CIMAR researcher, “Seamounts are biologically very important environments, but at the same time very vulnerable due to overfishing and illegal fishing. There is already scientific evidence that demonstrates the importance of protecting this and other marine ecosystems to ensure connectivity in the oceans and conserve highly migratory species”.
The team of scientists from the CIMAR of the UCR and officials from the Coco Marine Conservation Area (ACMC) will return in search of more information, within the framework of the project “Strengthening marine conservation and sustainable coastal development between the coastline of the Central Pacific and the Coco Marine Conservation Area in Costa Rica”, in consortium between Friends of Cocos Island (FAICO), CIMAR, University of Western Brittany (UBO) and MarViva Foundation.