The Oceana Expedition has recently been filming and taking photographs of this important ecosystem in the Pacific Meso-American Biological Corridor in order to promote its protection to the highest possible level.
During the stopover of the Ranger catamaran at Cocos Island (Costa Rica) and Coiba (Panama), Oceana divers worked alongside the MarViva Foundation in this natural reserve.
The Coiba National Park (Panama), which forms part of the Meso-American Biological Corridor, together with the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Gorgona and Malpelo in Colombia, and Cocos Island in Costa Rica, has just been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.
Oceana, whose recent film and photographic work have been broadcast to international public opinion, featuring stunning images of the sea beds around Coiba, is delighted with this decision. The international organisation for the defence of the seas chose Coiba as an essential port of call on its transoceanic expedition, as it is one of the most important ecosystems in this region, together with Cocos Island (in Costa Rica). The objective was, and still is, to work towards the protecting this marine/terrestrial park to the very highest level in collaboration with the MarViva Foundation and the local park rangers.
Coiba is the third protected marine area in the Meso-American Biological Corridor to acquire this status. Prior to this, Cocos Island in Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador were declared World Heritage Sites. This recognition by UNESCO represents a very important step, both for the Panamanian environmental movement (and especially for the MarViva Foundation, which has been carrying out its environmental protection activities over this huge area) and the Panamanian authorities, who for years now have been fighting to achieve this recognition. Oceana joined their endeavours during the six-month expedition undertaken by the Ranger catamaran during the first half of this year, from the Pacific to the Mediterranean.
“The declaration of Coiba as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, together with its classification as a Marine-Terrestrial National Park by the Panamanian government, guarantees that the threats hanging over Coiba, especially fish poaching and mass urban development, will be able to be fought with a much greater chance of success”, said oceanographer Xavier Pastor, the coordinator of the Ranger expedition.
“The task that lies ahead of us now is to make sure the laws are complied with effectively, and quite honestly we believe that the Panamanian government, the Coiba park rangers and the environmental police in that country are working conscientiously in that direction”, added the Director of Oceana for Europe, from on board the Ranger, now sailing through the waters of the Mediterranean.
Coiba Island lies 120 nautical miles to the south-east of Golfo Dulce (Costa Rica) and just 12 from the nearby coast of Panama. Intensive illegal fishing activities have made Coiba a highly threatened protected area. The MarViva Foundation has been working in this marine park along similar lines to its work at Cocos Island. Coral reefs, humpback whales, pilot whales, killer whales, dolphins, sea turtles (who lay their eggs on its beaches), manta rays, marlins and other marine creatures all form part of its natural wealth.
Some of the activities carried out by Oceana’s researchers during their stopover at Coiba Island, in collaboration with the MarViva Foundation, included:
§ Observation of the impact of climate change and the “El Niño” phenomenon on coral reefs.
§ Filming unique marine species such as the largest seahorse that exists in the world: the Pacific seahorse (Hippocampus ingens), which can reach up to 30 cm in length.
§ Monitoring the surrender of unauthorised fishing gear by the local fishermen.
Some of the people who currently work for Oceana, from Xavier Pastor, its Director in Europe, to Carlos Perez, the organisation’s Director of Operations, worked some years ago on establishing the MarViva Foundation, an ambitious experimental project of civilian park rangers which, up to now, has shown excellent results.
With UNESCO’s declaration, the work of the researchers and underwater cameraman of Oceana in Coiba has taken on exceptional value. Oceana’s Communications Department is offering these shots for publication on request.