Research and data

Coco Galapagos 2021



Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a key conservation strategy for all countries in their marine territories and for areas beyond national jurisdiction. Scientific studies carried out by MigraMar and other scientists show that highly migratory species such as sharks, rays, sea turtles, tuna, swordfish, billfish, mahi-mahi and whales are protected within MPAs, but once they leave face significant threats, mainly by fishing vessels. How much are these species at risk while being out of a reserve or how effective is an MPA to protect them while being within, are key questions MigraMar is committed to assess.

MigraMar scientists aim to quantify the overall risk to these species, based on their residency in protected waters, and to identify migratory corridors that can be used as the basis of new protected areas.

MigraMar and partners undertook a research expedition in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, in the region known as the Cocos-Galapagos Swimway. This expedition was carried out within the Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (CMAR) framework, which is supported by both the Governments of Costa Rica and Ecuador. The goal of this expedition was to obtain scientific information on the abundance, biomass and behavioral patterns of migratory fish species. This information will inform decision makers of the level of protection required to reduce fishery-related mortality and improved regional management schemes.


Expedition Route


Expetidion goals

To achieve this, MigraMar relies on the following expedition objectives:

  • To assess the spatial and temporal behavior of migratory marine species.
  • To assess the spatial and temporal trends in abundance, size structure and biomass productivity of migratory marine species.
  • To assess the behavior and population dynamic response of marine migratory species to changes in the oceanographic setting, particularly in relation to strong environmental events such as ENSO and long-term climate change scenarios.
  • To assess the genetic diversity, gene flow and effective population size between marine species (sub) populations living within the MPAs under assessment.
  • To investigate the abundance and composition of floating plastic pollution that may be encountered by marine species in this region.

Ethics in our science

All the research carried out by MigraMar strictly follows the United States and Australian codes on human and animal experimentation. Our research methods have been carefully reviewed and approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of the University of California – Davis; the Safety, Ethics and Institutional Biosafety Committees of the University of Tasmania; the Galapagos National Park Directorate animal welfare regulations; the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development through the Natural National Parks of Colombia; the Ministry of Environment of Panamá; and the Ministry of Environment of Costa Rica.


The Team

Alex Hearn, Ph.D. Universidad San Francisco de Quito United Kingdom Expedition leader
César Peñaherrera-Palma, Ph.D. MigraMar Ecuador Expedition Scientist (BRUVs)
Randall Arauz, M.Sc. CREMA United States of America Expedition Scientist (Tagging)
Andrea Vera, B.Sc. Universidad San Francsico de Quito Ecuador Research assistant (eDNA)
Marta Cambra, B.Sc. University of Costa Rica Costa Rica Research assistant (BRUVs)
Rosario Alvarez, M.Sc. MigraMar México Research assistant (Biodiversity Counts)
Roy Prendas Sea Legacy Costa Rica Communication lead
Micaela Stacey Sea Legacy Ecuador Communication support
Carlos Chacón PACIFICO Costa Rica CMAR / PACIFICO
Jennifer Suarez Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos Ecuador Ecuador’s Government representative
Isaac Chinchilla Vice-Ministerio Aguas y Mares Costa Rica Costa Rica’s Government representative
Juan Bonilla Ocean Blue Tree United States of America Expedition support
James Otis III Fins Attached United States of America Expedition support
Jimmy Mora Fisherman Costa Rica Research support

The Research Vessel




Our partners in science