By Maria Jose Brenes
San Jose, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- Costa Rica over the past decade has increased its marine conservation zone by more than 11,000 square kilometers (roughly 4,200 square miles) with an eye toward improving its historical deficit in maintaining its oceanic biodiversity.
The country has created four marine management areas during that time – Montes Submarinos, Cabo Blanco, Bahia Santa Elena and Barra del Colorado – comprising 2.7 percent of the total marine territory (or waters) under various kinds of protection.
The figure is far from its international commitment, which stands at 10 percent, but it’s an important step for the country in evening up its historic deficit in marine conversation.
“Costa Rica is a country that is 10 times larger in terms of its marine territory than its land area. We’re truly more comparable to an island than many other countries. And all our conservation efforts have been directed towards the land … So, now the country is preparing to expand its exclusive economic zone, where it must direct its efforts,” said the executive director of the Costa Rica Forever Association, Zdenka Piskulich.
The association, which dedicates its efforts on promoting the conservation of marine and land ecosystems in perpetuity via the management of alliances with the government, private sector and civil society, has been one of the entities tasked with helping the country fulfill its national conservation goals.
The ocean, in general, acts as a climate regulator for the planet, and these 11,000 sq. km of marine protected areas not only protect the biodiversity of migratory birds, whales, turtles, fish and corals but also aid in the sustainable development of communities.
“These protected areas are fundamental because they become climate refuges, not only for the biodiversity but also in that insofar as the ecosystem is healthy it has the capacity for resilience and adaptation to climate change, and that overflows into a benefit to communities, economically and in terms of social wellbeing,” biologist Monica Gamboa told EFE.
Each of the areas has special and unique characteristics that reflect their huge ecosystemic value and were selected after a rigorous process that involved technical studies, investment, consultation with the communities and various types of management so that they might become a sustainable protected area over time.
Costa Rica has typically lagged behind in terms of its marine and coastal conservation, having put its efforts much more into terrestrial conservation over time.
The country has just 51,000 sq. km of land area, some 0.03 percent of the world’s surface, and is home to about 90,000 species, or approximately 5 percent of the global biodiversity. A total of 13,030.55 sq. km of its land area – 25.5 percent of the total – is protected, although its goal is to get to 30 percent.
In terms of its ocean territory, Costa Rica possesses 568,054 sq. km containing 6,700 marine species, some 3.5 percent of the known global ocean species, 90 percent of which are endemic.
Of the marine territory, 15,501.92 sq. km are protected, or 2.7 percent, a far cry from the 10 percent that is the international commitment for 2020.
Now, however, the country’s goals are ambitious and it is seeking to be part of an international bloc with an eye toward achieving the 30 percent level for protected territories by 2030 as a nature-based solution to fight climate change.
Some of Costa Rica’s coastal areas have traditionally been devoted to fishing and they have been overexploited. Therefore, the country’s authorities have sought to push for a system of governance including the creation of family inns, Internet access, ecotourism, support for marine tour operators, as well as fishing by less invasive methods that allow the ecosystem to recover.