Protecting Osa’s Marine and Coastal Ecosystems

Marine Ecosystems

Marine Conservation Program

Osa Conservation’s Marine Conservation Program works to improve the protection, conservation & management of coastal-marine ecosystems of the Osa Península through restoration, monitoring, political incidence and community outreach to get a sustainable environment and maintain the incredible marine richness in the region, the vital importance not only regionally but also global.

Why Osa’s Marine Life is Unique

The coastal-marine ecosystems of the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica support extensive natural resources including coral reefs, mangroves, and important areas of feeding and breeding for fishes, cetaceans and sea turtles. The sheltered waters of the Golfo Dulce act as a breeding ground for resident & migratory species, like Humpback whales, fishes and migratory sharks, such as hammerhead sharks, which rely on the Golfo Dulce to birth their calves. The different marine species that come to feed or breed to The Osa Peninsula, they use the Pacific coast as part of a marine corridor that connects Costa Rica with Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, even Polar areas, like the humpback whales case.

The great wealth of biodiversity in the area is partially due to its unique geography, oceanographic conditions and climate. The Osa Peninsula is separated from the mainland by one of four tropical fjords considered in the world, the Golfo Dulce, due to the water circulation pattern is typical of fjord-type estuaries, with flux stratification within the water column. Unlike the open ocean, Golfo Dulce is protected from high winds and wave-driven currents, making it a very safe place for education and research activities. Its scenic beauty and richness in both marine and terrestrial species have made this area recognized as a hotspot for environmental conservation and recognized as a blue hope spot by Mission Blue.


Conservation Objectives

In order to address these challenges, Osa Conservation’s Marine Conservation Program addresses the following key objectives:

  1. Improving marine ecosystem health by promoting research, monitoring management and conservation of marine life in the Osa Peninsula
  2. Creating stakeholder engagement mechanisms for promoting conservation and sustainable use of marine species and ecosystems at regional and national level.
  3. Advocating for connectivity of ecosystems through the creation of marine protected areas.
  4. Becoming a marine biodiversity conservation model that integrates outreach, high level research, education, as well as local and political influence.

We have outlined these objectives to strategically improve the knowledge about marine resources, increase awareness & livelihood of local community members, and advance marine-friendly “Blue Policy” through informed decision making.


Current Conservation Activities

Osa Conservation’s Marine Conservation Program is currently working towards our program objectives in the following ways:

  1. Increasing marine knowledge and raising awareness about the marine ecological richness in the Osa Peninsula through educational modules, workshops, activities, events and talks.
  2. Explore and research Pristine and uncharted areas in the Osa Peninsula.
  3. Strengthening out networks and alliances in support of the Corcovado Marine Protected Area creation through outreach to communities and governments at various levels.
  4. Gaining support for a marine protected area through outreach to local, national, and international audiences.
  5. Restoring coral in the Golfo Dulce through partnerships with Raising Corals Costa Rica and The University of Costa Rica. We are training and hiring local women leaders to work in coral restoration, to promote and generate sustainable jobs.
  6. We are working closely with the local artisanal fishermen to promote responsible practices, generate new sustainable alternatives jobs and improve their livelihood and the environment.
  7. Help to improve ecotourism practices which be friendly with the animals and the ecosystem.


Marine Protected Areas:

What is a Marine Protected Area?:

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are the protective management of natural areas so as to keep them in their natural state while providing lasting benefits to community stakeholders. MPAs can be conserved for a number of reasons including economic resources, biodiversity conservation, and species protection. They are created by establishing zones with permitted and non-permitted uses within that zone (source). 


What is the Benefit of MPAs?

Proper management of marine environments is essential for everyone, but especially for those whose main source of food and income directly relies on the ocean (source). By providing a refuge for targeted species, an MPA gives animals inside its boundaries time to grow larger and breed more than their counterparts outside of the area helping to stock fisheries (source). Scientific studies showed that biomass of fish groups in highly and fully protected MPAs is, on average, six to seven times greater than in adjacent unprotected areas and three to four times greater than in lightly protected MPAs (source).


Source: Enric Sala and Sylvaine Giakoumi, “No-take marine reserves are the most effective protected areas in the ocean,” ICES Journal of Marine Science 75 (3) (2018): 1166–1168, available here


Conservation Challenges

Despite its ecological relevance, the marine environment in the south Pacific faces several key challenges that can easily weaken the marine ecosystem health. It is critical to address these in order to protect this important region for the future.


“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea” -Sylvia Earle


Thank you to our Partners!