The Isla del Caño Biological Reserve is one of the most biodiverse environments in the South Pacific of Costa Rica. it offers refuge to sharks and rays such as the white tip shark (Triaenodon obesus), the nurse shark, the whip ray (Hypanus longus), the devil ray (Mobula japanica), the round ray (Urobatis pardalis), the stingray (Mobula birostris) and others. The presence of large predators plays a very important role in the ecosystems controlling the populations of their prey through competition or predation. However, these cartilaginous skeleton fish are very threatened by the effects of illegal fishing, and overfishing, triggering negative effects throughout the ecosystem.
Despite there being many species of sharks and rays, very little is known about them. The lack of basic ecological information represents an impediment to their protection. The project “The Secret Life of the Sharks”, a project led by biologists Mario Espinoza and Marta Cambra of the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), aims to answer important questions and strengthen management and conservation measures for sharks and rays around Caño Island and other Marine Protected Areas of Costa Rica. Some of the questions are: (1) In what condition are shark and ray populations? (2) What are the sites with the greatest abundance and diversity of species? (3) What factors affect the distribution and abundance of the species? (4) Can Costa Rica´s Protected Areas benefit sharks and rays?
The project uses remote underwater cameras with bait to study aspects of the behavior of sharks and rays. In addition, the smell of the bait attracts other species that would be difficult to detect. This is the first time that this innovative technique is used in Costa Rica. Park rangers of Isla del Caño, and other Marine Protected Areas, are trained by biologists in order for monitoring to continue.
By Marta Cambra
Pictures: Marta Cambra & Melissa Robin
CONTACT: Marta Cambra - Facebook “La Vida Secreta de los Tiburones”.