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  • On February 18, National Geographic Pristine Seas premieres a feature documentary “OSA: Exploring the Blue Corcovado,” showcasing highly pristine and valuable marine ecosystems off the coast of Southern Costa Rica.
  • The currently unprotected marine ecosystem is a vital habitat for sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, humpback whales, spinner dolphins, and an array of other marine species.
  • The team, comprised of researchers and filmmakers, published findings that underscore the importance of protecting the ecosystem, which they claim “would benefit the rich biodiversity of this part of the country as well as replenishing nearby overexploited important fisheries resources.”
  • Artisanal fishers in the area also support the Corcovado Marine Protected Area.
  • Media package here – Photo credit: Enric Sala, National Geographic Pristine Seas

National Geographic Pristine Seas premiered a documentary film highlighting Osa Peninsula’s (Costa Rica) stunning marine biodiversity. The film, made in 2019 during a 4 week long intensive National Geographic expedition, includes awe-inspiring visuals of marine life adjacent to Corcovado National Park. The team, comprised of scientists, local marine experts, and researchers from the University of Costa Rica concluded thorough their research that this nearshore habitat, understudied historically, needs further protection.

“We have seen it in hundreds of marine reserves around the world… When an area is protected, marine life recovers spectacularly,” says Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and executive director of the National Geographic Pristine Seas project. “But not only is marine life protected, but local communities also benefit with better jobs, with higher income through ecotourism.”

The species-teeming marine ecosystems bordering Corcovado National Park are included in a broader corridor of Marine Protected Areas that include Cocos Island National Park, the Galápagos Marine Reserve, Coiba National Park, and Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. “Here, a much larger area should be created, an area that connects the Osa Peninsula,” says Dr. Jorge Cortés, a researcher at the Center for Research in Marine Sciences. Expanding Corcovado’s Marine Protected Area is critical to linking marine ecosystems, marine-coastal habitat connectivity that becomes more vital as climate change increasingly pressures these biomes. Establishing continuity between Corcovado’s awe-inspiring marine wonders and other Marine Protected Areas will also ensure species of vulnerable marine megafauna such as sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and humpback whales have the ability to traverse highly important marine corridors.

Artisanal fishers in the area, too, express their discontent with a lack of protection for Corcovado’s marine ecosystems. “In 10 years, if it continues as it stands right now … to be honest, we won’t have fish here” says Edwin Artavia, a fisher from the La Palma Community on the Osa Peninsula. Witnessing the decline of fish stocks and sizes firsthand, these locals advocate for conservation action to protect the areas off the coast of Corcovado National Park. “What is needed is a strong union among everyone with a vision for the future,” stated José Moya, a local fisher of the Artisanal Fishers Association of Golfito, Puntarenitas Island.

The vast Corcovado National Park, comprised of 40,000 hectares of land, is already a well-known tourist destination famous for its unique biodiversity. Creating a Marine Protected Area is a crucial next step to protecting this wildlife-rich region, ensuring that key marine breeding habitats are protected for a wide array of shark species, rays, turtles, whales, dolphins, and commercial species foundational to the area’s blue economy and sustainable development to thrive. Economic growth from protected marine ecosystem will manifest in three primary ways:

1) Bolster the government’s tourism and boost Corcovado’s already-renowned brand to encompass coastal communities and marine tourism, synthesizing terrestrial and ocean conservation

2) Ensuring protected areas for marine life, which will allow fish stocks to replenish and larger fish to seep into the region’s fishing communities

3) Heightening the sustainability of ecotourism beyond the park, as sportfishing and similar coastal tourism activities will reap the benefits of replenished fish stocks and larger fish.

Costa Rica serves as a global leader in conservation, and the establishment of additional protections for Corcovado’s marine ecosystems presents a unique opportunity to bring the country’s environmental achievements to the next level. Protecting the ecosystems and biodiversity of both Corcovado’s terrestrial and marine biomes would provide immense ecological and social benefit to the Osa Peninsula region.

Watch the documentary premiere February 18 on the National Geographic channel at 8 p.m. in Costa Rica (9 p.m. Eastern).

NGPS trailer:  Photo credit: Enric Sala, National Geographic Pristine Seas

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