Life in the ocean

Each year, millions of zebra, wildebeest and gazelle cross the African plains, huge flocks of birds cross the globe from breeding to feeding grounds, and yet some of the most astonishing migrations on the planet take place un-noticed…
Migration routes

Marine protected areas (MPAs) provide refuge for species that coexist in their waters. However, the effectiveness of its protection is not balanced for all species. When leaving the MPAs, migratory marine species are exposed to various threats such as regulated and unregulated fishing, maritime transport, unsustainable tourism and pollution, among others; even within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of each country. The adoption of measures that make it possible to halt the population decline of migratory marine species will be those that manage to conserve species that converge in the Pacific Ocean and in other regions of the world.



Cetaceans (Cetacea) are an infraorder of placental mammals fully adapted to aquatic life, the living cetaceans are subdivided into two parvordes, that of the mysticetes and that of the odontocetes. A third parvorden, the archaeocetes, contains only extinct species. They have a fusiform body, similar to that of fish, which makes them more hydrodynamic. The front legs have been transformed into flippers, while the rear legs have disappeared as such, although some vestigial bones remain, not attached to the pelvis and hidden within the body. The caudal fin is horizontal and divided into two lobes. They generally lack hair and have a thick layer of fat that serves as thermal insulation. The clade of cetaceans contains about eighty species, almost all marine, except 5 species of freshwater dolphins.

Common name Humpback whale
Scientific name Megaptera novaeangliae
Global distribution Cosmopolitan species with a wide distribution that covers all oceans.
Distribution in the ETP During winter, the southern hemisphere whales aggregate in specific breeding areas near the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.
Habitat preferences Coastal areas. This species undertakes long migrations between breeding grounds to feeding grounds.
Threats Vulnerable threats to accidental entanglement in fishing gear and sometimes other debris. They are also vulnerable to injury from boat collisions, which can be fatal.
Conservation status Least concern.

Sea Turtles

From the superfamily Chelonioidea are reptiles of the order Testudines and of the suborder Cryptodira. The seven existing species of sea turtles are the green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, olive ridley sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, flatback sea turtle, and leatherback sea turtle.


Sea turtles spend most of their time in marine environments, facing grave threats as they forage, mate and migrate. Humans pose the greatest risk to sea turtle survival. Successful conservation efforts dramatically reduced risks to sea turtles associated with direct exploitation of adults and eggs for food. Yet human-induced threats remain the principal source of danger to every sea turtle species across the globe.


Common name Green turtle
Scientific name Chelonia mydas
Global distribution All the tropical seas of the world.
Distribution in the ETP From Costa Rica to the turn of the South Pacific, with a clear residence and connectivity in the area of the MigraVía Galapagos-Coco.
Habitat preferences Coastal and pelagic areas. During non-breeding periods, adults are generally found in areas rich in seagrass and / or seaweed.
Threats Like other species of turtles, this species is vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts during all stages of its life. Major threats include bycatch in marine fisheries, degradation of marine, nesting and foraging habitats, and disease.
Conservation status In danger.
Common name Hawksbill turtle
Scientific name Eretmochelys imbricata
Global distribution All tropical seas and to a lesser extent in subtropical seas.
Distribution in the ETP The movements of this species are quite restricted in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Individuals tagged within the Isla del Coco National Park showed high residence to the zone within the protected area.
Habitat preferences Highly migratory species. It uses a wide variety of locations and habitats during its lifetime. It prefers waters with temperatures between 25ºC and 30ºC, and average depths of 10 m.
Threats Among the main threats are the internal trade in products of this species (meat and eggs), the destruction of nesting and feeding habitat, the ingestion of marine debris (including fishing gear), and marine pollution.
Conservation status Critically endangered
Common name Leatherback turtle
Scientific name Dermochelys coriacea
Global distribution It is distributed throughout the world, with nesting sites in tropical regions and foraging grounds in temperate and subpolar latitudes.
Distribution in the ETP This species nests mainly on the coasts of Central America, but its distribution extends to the region of the South Pacific gyre.
Habitat preferences Ocean areas. The temperature preference of this species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific averages 26ºC, but with a wide range of 13ºC to 34ºC.
Threats The main threats include bycatch in marine fisheries, direct use of turtles or eggs for human use, coastal development that affects turtle habitat, marine pollution and pathogens, and climate change.
Conservation status Global: Vulnerable Regional: Critically endangered
Common name Olive ridley turtle
Scientific name Lepidochelys olivacea
Global distribution All tropical seas. Nests in tropical waters (except for the Gulf of Mexico)
Distribution in the ETP Marking studies in Costa Rica show broad movements within the continental exclusive economic zones of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador and Peru.
Habitat preferences They remain in pelagic zones, passively drifting with the main currents until they reach sexual maturity. Reproductively active males and females migrate to coastal areas and concentrate near nesting beaches. After breeding, they prefer waters within the 20 ° C isotherms.
Threats This species is prone to population decline due to the slow growth rate in combination with anthropogenic impacts. The main anthropogenic impacts are the commercialization of their eggs, bycatch in marine fisheries, the degradation and transformation of nesting beaches, and diseases.
Conservation status Vulnerable


Group of elasmobranch fish characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head. Modern sharks are classified within the clade Selachimorpha and are the sister group to the rays.


Well-known species such as the tiger shark, blue shark, great white shark, mako shark, thresher shark, and hammerhead shark are apex predators—organisms at the top of their underwater food chain. Many shark populations are threatened by human activities.

Common name Tiger shark
Scientific name Galeocerdo cuvier
Global distribution All the temperate and tropical seas of the world.
Distribution in the ETP From southern California to Peru, including the Galapagos and Revillagigedo Islands.  This species has been shown to move in the marine protected areas of Coco and Galapagos (in the region of the MigraVía Galapagos-Coco) to areas of the coast of Ecuador and Colombia.
Habitat preferences Near continental shelves, reefs, and slopes. Occasionally, it associates with coral reefs and takes longer excursions to the pelagic zone. It is mainly found at a depth of 100 m.
Threats Species caught by commercial, recreational and artisanal fisheries. Since the 1950s, this species has been increasingly exploited due to the increasing demand from the shark fin trade. At a global level, the catch records of this species are still largely unknown.
Conservation status Near threatened.
Common name Galapagos shark
Scientific name Carcharhinus galapagensis
Global distribution All the tropical seas of the world.
Distribution in the ETP From the Revillagigedo Islands and Clipperton Island to the Galapagos Islands. Also distributed in the Colombian Pacific.
Habitat preferences Coastal-pelagic areas, particularly around archipelagos and coastal and oceanic seamounts.
Threats It has a limited biological productivity and, therefore, a reduced capacity to sustain the exploitation. It is caught incidentally in commercial and small-scale fisheries, both in ocean waters and around islands and seamounts.
Conservation status Least concern.