The extraction of tons of seashells from Costa Rican beaches by tourists puts the country on alert because removing these materials from its ecosystems could affect the beauty of tourist destinations.
And it is that to get an idea of the size of the situation, between 2021 and 2022, the authorities of Guanacaste Airport registered the seizure of two tons of seashells, while in the Juan Santamaría terminal the figure amounted to one ton.
As if this were not enough, up to 10 tons of shells, snails, corals, starfish and other marine resources have been confiscated in the country, according to studies carried out by the University of Costa Rica (UCR).
Campaign keeping seashells on Costa Rican beaches
For this reason, and with the intention of preserving the tourist destinations of the province, Guanacaste Airport launched a strong campaign from the terminal, to make tourists aware of the importance of keeping seashells on Costa Rican beaches.
“What really interests us is the destination, we always try to strengthen the destination, a fundamental part are the beaches, because people visit us, among other things, for the beaches, there are 139 beaches in 200 kilometers, they are very diverse, some black, gold, white, pink, with big waves and small waves and some with shells, it’s a huge menu of beaches,” said César Jaramillo, general manager of Guanacaste Airport.
Lora, the sea turtle
Through Lora, a sea turtle and the central character of this campaign, they seek to extend the initiative to all businessmen in the province, for which they already have the support of the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism (Caturgua) to spread the message of alert.
“The idea is that the tourist finds out quickly, because once they have their bag with shells, the damage is done, they have to find out quickly and with the average stay, it gives them a chance to find out,” added Jaramillo.
From the Guanacaste airport, they hope that Costa Rica will be the epicenter of a message that must be spread throughout the world, with the intention of preserving the coastal beauties.
Damaging the ecosystem
The collection of shells on the beaches is one of the problems facing the country’s marine ecosystems and that has gone almost unnoticed for decades, because they help control coastal erosion and are the primary material for sandy beaches, also allow some algae, plants, marine sponges and other species to adhere to them. Likewise, they fulfill the function of housing and protection of some marine species, especially the spiral-shaped shells, essential for hermit crabs and others.
For this reason, it is necessary to make visitors aware that it is not necessary to take any souvenirs from the coasts or beaches, according to Jenny Asch, coordinator of the Coastal Marine Program of the National System of Conservation Areas (Sinac).
“The increase in tourism and the decrease in sea shells result in multiple environmental changes, increased beach erosion, changes in the recycling of calcium carbonate, and a decrease in biodiversity and abundance of organisms, which they depend on the availability of shells and other materials,” Asch said.
Taking photos of the shells, snails or sea stones is the recommendation that the Sinac authorities make to tourists, so that they can take a souvenir of their visit to the country.
The most unfortunate thing is that the seashells that are removed from the beaches and that are confiscated at national airports by the Police and delivered to Sinac, cannot be returned to their marine ecosystems.
Previously they were destroyed and to date, twice a year these shells are buried in the ground, to minimize the impact on biodiversity. However, currently the environmental authorities are investigating other disposal alternatives in conjunction with some public universities. The capture, extraction and transfer of wildlife, its parts, products and by-products without permits from Sinac is prohibited, in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation Law and those who engage in this practice could be penalized up to 30 base salaries.