The Secret Life of the Sharks

The Secret Life of the Sharks

Author: Marta Cambra

After four years of research, the first results of the project The Secret Life of Sharks of Costa Rica are published in the Scientific Reports journal of Nature Research, a journal with a high impact worldwide. It is a project of the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) of the University of Costa Rica. It seeks to offer information about sharks and rays and thus be able to give them better protection.

In this project, we use remote underwater cameras with bait, a technique recognized worldwide for its effectiveness in studying predatory species such as sharks. With this technique, we can study these animals without entering their habitat or taking them out of the water. That guarantees us more reliable data without causing any harm to the animals.

The Secret Life of the Sharks

We have placed a total of 1037 cameras throughout the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) such as the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve, the Murcielago Islands, and the Isla del Coco National Park. We are lucky enough to work hand in hand with the island’s park rangers. Besides, we also monitor three sites where fishing is allowed in the North Pacific of Costa Rica.

Our cameras allowed us to detect up to 11 species of sharks and 18 species of rays, of which 66% are threatened. One of the most important results is that the largest species (top predators), such as hammerhead, tiger, silky, freshwater, or bull shark, were only detected within MPAs. 

The Secret Life of the Sharks

On the other hand, in places where fishing is allowed, many rays and smaller sharks were detected. Besides, top predators were much more abundant on Isla del Coco than on Isla del Caño and the Murcielago Islands, possibly due to the human impact these more coastal islands receive.

Therefore, our results demonstrate the benefits of marine protected areas for large shark species. They confirm the negative impact of humans on the subsistence of coastal sharks and rays.

We are currently looking for funds and alliances to continue with this monitoring of sharks and rays, which at the regional level is the most extensive and durable recorded to date.

This study is possible thanks to alliances with government entities (SINAC), NGOs (Global Finprint, FAICO, Costa Rica por Siempre, Waitt Foundation, Fundación Pacífico, Idea Wild, Conservation International, Fundación Costa Rica Wildlife) and local companies (Costa Rica Dive and Surf, Undersea Hunter and Cuajiniquil Dive Center).

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