The Galapagos-Coco Expedition was carried out with the participation of a luxury inter-institutional team, with members of MigraMar, the PACIFICO platform, the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) of the University of Costa Rica, authorities of the Galapagos National Park and the Isla del Coco National Park, two World Heritage Sites of exceptional beauty and fundamental ecological importance in the marine landscape of our extraordinary region.
On behalf of MigraMar we loved sharing this expedition with colleagues and friends! Years ago, Todd Steiner, one of our founders, coined the term MigraVía to describe the spaces in which large marine predators migrate in the Eastern Pacific, and for a decade, MigraMar, through its network of 20 researchers, has invested more than five million dollars in cutting-edge biological research. Today, the MigraVias between Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and the United States and along the coasts of Central and South America have become one of the most ambitious conservation projects in the hemisphere.
The Galapagos-Coco expedition represented an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Cocos-Galápagos MigraVia, which is located along the Coco volcanic ridge and where there is an important migratory marine activity that MigraMar has been documenting. Although MigraMar has marked hundreds of organisms in Galapagos and Coco with acoustic and satellite tags, we had not been able to navigate the extension of the marine corridor between both protected areas. We know that the large predator species that we have tagged migrate between both sites, but we still do not have all the necessary information to accurately document their use of the MigraVías and more research is required.
An important goal that we set for this expedition was to evaluate the ecological importance of the seamounts along the MigraVía Coco-Galápagos. We knew that several pelagic species, such as the hammerhead shark, follow the magnetic structure of the volcanic mountain range and the seamounts to locate themselves spatially and move between sites of aggregation and feeding. This is precisely what the expedition revealed quickly, thanks to the application of audiovisual recording methodologies with remote sub-marine baited cameras (under the direction of the CIMAR of the University of Costa Rica). The sub-aquatic cameras deployed by the international team of researchers revealed the diversity of large predators in the seamounts along the MigraVía Coco-Galápagos. During the expedition, 17 species of large predators have been recorded, including the hammerhead shark, the fox shark, and the sailfish. These seamounts overflow with life, with the presence of large pelagic migratory, and must be protected.
In conclusion, the Galápagos-Coco Expedition highlighted the fundamental importance of the Coco-Galápagos MigraVía. In this regard, MigraMar congratulates the authorities of Ecuador and Costa Rica for the signing of the Framework Cooperation Agreement between the Galapagos National Park and the Costa Rican National System of Conservation Areas to collaborate in joint initiatives to strengthen the conservation of both MPAs, research, work with migratory species and control and surveillance actions in the region, among others. It is a first step towards the necessary transboundary management of marine biological resources. Our governments continue to count, as always, with the technical collaboration and scientific advice of MigraMar.
Protecting this MigraVía with the declaration of new protected areas and the expansion of existing protected areas is not only an option for Costa Rica and Ecuador to achieve their marine conservation goals, but it is an unavoidable necessity to recover and maintain the populations of migratory marine species that allow to regulate marine ecosystems, guarantee their functionality in perpetuity and contribute to the well-being of insular and coastal populations of the region.
MigraMar thanks PACÍFICO – Asociación Costa Rica por Siempre (especially Carlos Manuel Chacón and Zdenka Piskulich) for organizing this expedition and managing the funds needed for this successful company, the Waitt Foundation, the Shark Conservation Fund and the Helmsley Charitable Trust for providing the funds, to the Waitt Foundation for making Plan B available, to the entire crew of Plan B for their kindness, great treatment and professionalism, as well as to CIMAR-UCR, especially to Mario Espinoza and Marta Cambra who led the monitoring effort through BRUVs, to the authorities of the Galapagos National Park and the Isla del Coco National Park, and to the other institutions that sponsored this expedition, facilitating logistics, contacts and research permits, such as the Galapagos Science Center in San Cristobal of the San Francisco University Quito. We hope that this expedition is the first of a series of collaborations between our institutions, and that we can dream of more similar expeditions in the Coiba-Malpelo Migravia between Panama and Colombia, in Revillagigedo and the Gulf of California, towards Clipperton Atoll and in Peru and Chile.