National Geographic Will Explore Unknown Marine Areas of Cocos Island

By Dialogo
September 08, 2009

A group of National Geographic researchers and cameramen will travel this month to Cocos Island, in the Pacific Ocean 534 kilometers from continental Costa Rica, in order to survey marine areas that have not been scientifically explored, the organization indicated. National Geographic explained in a statement that this program is part of its “Ocean Now” campaign to dive in the world’s last pristine marine sites, which include the underwater mountain Las Gemelas, located about 56 kilometers south of Cocos Island National Park. This research will provide the first scientific data, images, and descriptions of the area’s biodiversity, establishing a point of reference for other underwater mountains in Costa Rica and the tropical East Pacific. The expedition’s leader, National Geographic explorer Enric Sala, indicated that this campaign “is very important because the Las Gemelas underwater mountains have never been explored before, and they are believed to have a wealth of biodiversity, where fishing pressure has never been measured or regulated.” Sala added that Cocos Island is an area of refuge for many oceanic species vulnerable to fishing activity, “so that it’s necessary to understand these animals’ movements on a regional scale in order to design preservation strategies.” In addition, the research project will also compile information about the island in order to quantify illegal fishing and test the use of satellites as a remote vigilance system for protected areas. For its part, the Sea-Turtle Restoration Program (Pretoma), a Costa Rican environmental organization, announced today that it attached satellite transmitters to the carapaces of several turtles on Cocos Island in August. The biologists will now be able to track the movements of three green turtles and one hawksbill turtle and so determine their migratory corridors within the Eastern Pacific. Similar equipment had already been attached to two green turtles in March, making it possible to locate them when they come to the surface. “The information we are compiling is necessary if we want to provide protection to these incredible creatures while they are migrating thousands of kilometers across the Pacific, where they have to face the threat of industrial fishing,” said Randall Arauz, Pretoma’s president. Arauz added that “Costa Rica should increase the Cocos Island protected area in order to limit fishing activity,” since this area is a site where turtles and sharks feed, rest, and raise their young. Pretoma also fitted six hammerhead sharks with acoustic transmitters, bringing to sixty the number of sharks studied by the organization on an ongoing basis since 2005.