Blue Eco Blog

Splash! You are in Costa Rica's Blue Eco Blog. Echoing Eco for Oceans and Waters. Giving voice to dolphins and whales, their waves and their waters, and all denizens of the deep. News they think you should use. Dive in.

Offshore Osa Drilling Again in 2012

clock November 9, 2012 13:36 by author BlueEcoBlog

Marine life behavior alters after drilling

From The Tico Times Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 - By Shawn Larkin
THE BIG BLUE: Dolphins have scattered and no whales have been seen in the area since a foreign research vessel drilled into the ocean floor earlier this year.
Rash of Rashes: A dolphin off southwestern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula displays a skin rash.

The blue-water pelagic ecosystem offshore of southwestern Costa Rica’s Isla del Caño Biological Reserve and Corcovado National Park took serious one-two punches during the past few months, and it remains to be seen whether things will ever return to conditions of the past. The area around, not inside, the two protected areas is probably Costa Rica’s most critical dolphin and whale breeding and feeding waters. But the whales are gone, and the dolphins have changed. The fishing has been off, and boats are headed elsewhere to find fish.

The first few months of the year shaped up to be one of the best seasons for marine life in Costa Rican waters in recent memory. The cool currents of La Niña stoked a profusion of big pelagic species like dolphins, whales, tuna, turtles and giant mantas. Divers and snorkelers from the Southern Zone reported more giant mantas seen at Caño Island in February and March than in the past 15 years put together. Flights and boats searching for marine life in the area were finding dolphin superpods, groups of dolphins numbering in the hundreds to thousands, all over the area. There were many mating and birthing humpback whales, a large pod of false killer whales, orcas, fin whales and even three blue whales, including a baby, feeding on giant bait balls of small fish brought up from the depths during the normal strong upwelling at this time of year. There were uncountable hectares of turtles, tuna and billfish. There were even a few big sharks.

Then, a giant foreign ship showed up and began drilling deep holes in the ocean floor not far from Caño Island, in the name of scientific research. Within a day, the whales were gone. Search time for dolphins from a plane went from a half hour or less to two hours or more. Most dolphin superpods broke into smaller groups and headed north toward offshore Quepos. Others broke into smaller groups and moved inshore, closer to the coast. Dolphins that stayed in the area developed a strange skin rash.

The spewing ship kept at it for a month. Great areas of waters turned from marine blue to metallic brown and green. The day after the ship left, a new one showed up towing many kilometers of giant air guns blasting extremely loud sounds repetitively. A week later they were still at it. Drake Bay ecotourism and sportfishing boats foolish enough to still be looking in their favorite hot spots were told to leave the area by burly men on a yacht out of Quepos. Scuba divers at Caño Island could hear the giant booms of the guns during their dives.

No environmental impact study was done for the area. No dolphin and whale observers were onboard to look out for cetacean safety. There were no Costa Ricans onboard until someone noticed. Many questions were never answered. No notice was given to area residents of what was going to happen.

Since the drilling, no whales have been reported in the area – the longest period without whale sightings that anglers and guides in Drake Bay can remember. No large dolphin superpods have been seen. The fishing is bad. No wonder so few tourists seem to want to visit the area right now.

This serious lack of ocean oversight has left locals wondering what is next. There are reports of making a permanent drilling riser here and of laying an undersea cable from the mainland to Caño Island and then offshore to the rig.

Let’s hope an environmental impact study is involved and that locals dependent on the area’s marine life are given some notice so they can find new jobs. Because what’s next could be the knockout punch for a good chunk of Costa Rica’s famous marine life: whales, dolphins, turtles – and fishers and divers.

Email costacetacea@gmail.com with contributions to The Big Blue, or check out www.costacetacea.com for more information.

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True Costa Rican Wild Animal Stories by Shawn Larkin Strunz

clock October 10, 2012 15:43 by author BlueEcoBlog

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Gold on the Osa Peninsula

clock September 24, 2012 15:23 by author BlueEcoBlog

Check out this very informative article by Nora M. and O about gold on the Osa that was published the day after our last blog post about gold in the ocean offshore of Osa, Costa Rica.  Guess Crocodile Bay is pretty well informed about gold on the Osa.  Except they left out any underwater history.  We are hoping for another post about the history of gold on the Osa underwater from these gold experts.

Striking Gold: Cultural History of the Osa Peninsula

Posted by on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 with 0

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Osa Big Blue Full of Gold to be mined?

clock September 3, 2012 14:49 by author BlueEcoBlog

Future offshore Osa gold mining or other drilling might cause denizens even bigger problems.  Offshore Osa likely has a lot of gold.  The worlds first offshore gold mining operation was off of Sirena, in Corcovado National Park.  Since the park is protected a measley 500 meters offshore, seems like someone might have been thinking about big gold in the deep blue sea of the Osa peninsula.

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Are tourists keeping Costa Rican dolphins awake?

clock August 30, 2012 09:28 by author BlueEcoBlog

Are tourists keeping Costa Rican dolphins awake?

Dolphins need protected areas and times.

Recent research on Hawaiian spinner dolphins indicates that they need protected times and places. Surprise! One bay is visited by as many as sixty swimmers at a time who try to play with a small group of dolphins. Seems the dolphins rest in the early daylight hours, and that’s when many swimmer tourists head out. Less dolphins may come into the bay and the dolphins might leave earlier than usual when too many people show up. Spinners in Hawaii rest in small groups near shore in shallow sandy bays near deep water. Scientists say these places need protection. Clearly tourists should be told to leave the dolphins alone in the early daylight hours and fishing and extraction should be stopped in the bays. Costa Rican dolphins should have it so good.


Costa Rican spinner dolphins deal with giant nets towed by ships, helicopters dropping bombs, long lines full of hooks, shrimp trawlers bulldozing the bottom, surprise drill ships making a big mess, big banging seismic surveys, cargo ships blitzing by, sport fishers plowing through the pod with lines and hooks, tourist boats gawking, and even some divers in the water. How do you think that effects their beauty sleep?


Don't forget here in Costa Rica spinner dolphins have no protected place at all.


Costa Rican spinner and spotted dolphins, who also rest in the early daylight, need tourists to leave them alone at this time. Sport fishing boats need to stop fishing in the dolphins as they particularly like the early hours of the day. Many hotel managers want tours to leave early to get everyone out of the hotel, but this is the wrong strategy if you are concerned about dolphins. Tourist operators like divers and fishers should put up on their web pages that they leave the dolphins alone in the am. Guests of Costa Cetacea over the years will recall that all tours leave late and respect the dolphins rest time, much to the frustration of some hotel managers. The interactions here in Costa Rica are much more interesting in the PM anyway.


Aloha to the Hawaiians for once again being the world ocean leaders. Lets hope Costa Rica follows.

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Blue Permaculture at Sea Blueprint

clock August 17, 2012 10:16 by author BlueEcoBlog

Fantastic Fish Farms for Future Feasting?

Big Food Fish Can Help Feed the Future

From The Tico Times Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010 - By Shawn Larkin
THE BIG BLUE: Easy-to-farm species like Almaco jack and black kingfish are top choices for the future of sustainable fish farming in Costa Rica.

Tico Tuna: Almaco jack, Seriola rivoliana, is much easier to raise and harvest than tuna and tastes much the same.

Big beasts that have been forced to evolve for human benefit are called domestic animals. Domestic food animals have changed the course of human history and evolved for millennia, giving us things like cows and pigs. All the big food animals have one thing in common: They live on land. But, as we all know, times are changing. Today we are seeing the dawn of domestic big food fish.

We tried domesticating a lot of different land animal species before we ended up with the major ones we all know today. Could it be that the same thing will happen in the ocean? Experts think it’s a sure thing. So what fish of the many being tried might help feed a hungry world?

A lot of factors influence production of domestic food animals, but ultimately they must produce quality quickly and cheaply. If the animal is hard to breed or difficult to raise, does not taste good or is delicate in nature, its not a big food domestic.

Two fish are fins apart from the rest of the wannabe maritime domestics. Their names vary depending on where in the world you are, but the species are the same: Seriola rivoliana and Rachycentron canadum. We could trademark them as “Tico Tuna” and “Caribbean Salmon.”

Tico Tuna goes by Almaco jack, kahala, longfin yellowtail, Songoro amberjack and medregal, while Caribbean Salmon is known as black kingfish, black salmon, ling or cobia.

Hawaii’s Kona Blue Water Farms, a world pioneer of open-ocean farms, markets the common fish that divers and sportfishers in Costa Rica call Almaco jack as Kona Kampachi. Because many people cannot tell the difference between the taste of this fish and that of albacore tuna, the meat meets the standards of the discriminating sushi connoisseur and also tastes great prepared any other way. This fish is way easier to raise, harvest and make money from than tuna, which seem to be our planet’s default favorite fish. Farming Tico Tuna would be far more sustainable than Costa Rica’s current myopic tuna, dolphin, shark and ray-killing machines, the tuna dozers, that destroy our national heritage every day in the rarely seen offshore Pacific pelagic.

We need look no farther then Caribbean Panama for pioneering offshore blue farmers of a species that was called black kingfish by some of Costa Rica’s Caribbean fisherman back when we still had these fish. U.S.-based Open Blue Sea Farms spent a lot of energy figuring out that this fish is one of the major players in future food. Similar in appearance to sharks, black kingfish are big, tasty enough for sushi and quick and easy to produce in blue farms. As Costa Rica’s Caribbean has hardly any big fish left due to massive overfishing, farming this fish would reduce pressure on the few remaining wild fish while providing more habitat. In other words, fish farms might save Costa Rica’s Caribbean fisheries from switching to jellyfish to survive, as has happened in other places where fisheries have collapsed, like North America’s cod stocks.

These obvious choices for the future of big fish domestication also can be raised without antibiotics, hormones or mercury, making them healthier for people and the planet. Grown together with shellfish, seaweed and smaller fish, blue farmers can mimic a natural ecosystem that absorbs one species’s waste while producing food for other species, like us. The farms would be far out to sea, out of sight from the beaches and islands that support the economy with tourism. Surfers can chill out because the farms would have no effect on waves, and surfers love sushi. Fishers would catch more fish around the farms, as they are proven fish-attracting devices.

Sustainable pelagic blue farming seems like a much better option than buying fish from Panama and Hawaii, or eating more jellyfish.

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Costa Rica Fish Farms are Back but Aqua Permaculture This TIme

clock August 17, 2012 08:41 by author BlueEcoBlog

Oceanic Farming Is Wave of the Future

From The Tico Times Thursday, September 16, 2008- By Shawn Larkin
THE BIG BLUE: The soil of the future is in the ocean

Costa Rica’s biggest and most bioproductive ecosystem, the offshore open-ocean pelagic, could be a shining blue diamond of economic productivity with a little management fertilizer.

Of course, pelagic or deep-sea fishing already provides big money, but many who have studied the situation think sustainability is being left out of the equation. Will Costa Rica’s oceans collapse like a tree stripped of leaves and fruit, or will it bloom for generations?

Ocean parks, refuges, sanctuaries and biological corridors clearly are part of any blue future. Costa Rica has demonstrated to the world the economic value of green protected areas, and hopefully we will follow our own lesson with our marine resources.

But parks are not all the future holds for our oceans. If history is any indicator, oceanic farming will become even bigger than the terrestrial kind. The soil of the future is the ocean.

If we know anything about the future, it’s that it will be hungry. By many estimates, more then half the world’s seafood is already farmed. And more than half the world’s fisheries have collapsed.

The future of open-ocean permaculture will be very different from the first crude attempts at ocean monoculture. As farmers around the world go green – meaning organic and sustainable – by demand, blue farmers get the advantage of being able to start off that way. Companies like Kona Blue Water Farms are already leading the way in sustainable seafood production. Blue farmers could literally save the world.

Future blue farms might be more like Indian milpas than monoculture banana plantations: multiple useful species growing in synergistic harmony, tended to by nearby local communities.

Imagine a giant shining blue diamond, bigger than your house, far offshore, out of sight of land – a giant diamond in the sea, half submerged. A pole runs from top to bottom. The sides of the diamond are made of a mesh that keeps fish in but lets water pass through. The waste from the fish feeds strings of shellfish around the bottom of the diamond. Algae and other life growing on the shellfish bring in a cloud of little fish that surround the diamond. Small holes in the mesh let the little fish dart through, feeding the big fish. And the big fish are harvested as needed.

Permaculture.

Local communities and businesses could tend their own, local blue diamonds. Other diamonds could be released offshore near the northern or southern border. With currents, nature and technology doing the work, the diamonds would get harvested at the other end of the country, full of fat fish. Sportfishers would increase their catches around the massive fish-attracting devices, divers and snorkelers would go below for a look, boats and kayakers would want to go around, guides would be needed, and even more money and livelihoods would be made.

Perhaps we could help lead the way to the future of blue farming, applying the age-old principles of permaculture and sustainability. Many cultures have sustainably harvested shallow coastal waters since ancient times. Now is the time to take it farther offshore and farm, as well as conserve, the big blue.

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Pelagic Park’ Would Help Save Spinner Dolphins

clock August 15, 2012 04:20 by author BlueEcoBlog

‘Pelagic Park’ Would Help Save Spinner Dolphins

From The Tico Times, Posted: Friday, September 05, 2008 - By Shawn Larkin

The most hightech, large-scale fishing in Costa Rica’s oceans is commercial tuna fishing.

From hardworking crew and helicopters to radar and satellites, these operations take catching fish very seriously.

They drop enormous nets bigger than a city block into the sea to catch vast quantities of an assortment of marine life. They are after mostly tuna, among the most valuable fish of any denizens of the deep.

When fishing boats find a big group of spinner dolphins, they find some of their ever-present sidekicks: giant yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Mostly seen only below the surface, the tuna would not be so easy to locate without the help of the dolphins, which must surface regularly to breathe. The giant tuna pack together around the dolphins that find their food for them. Here, offshore of southern Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, the big tuna and the spinner dolphins are always together.

I reckon the dolphins think: “Now that the  moon is full, the current is from the southwest at two knots and the wind is calm, a bigspaced swell is coming in from west-southwest, it rained last night and the layers of water temperatures changed a lot, it’s a sunny day, almost high noon, and I think I know where all those other dolphins are going, and the orcas will not hunt today, and the tuna boats will be busy for a few hours – hope my friends and family make it out! – we should go hunt the south end of the Osa drop-off upwelling.”

And I reckon the tuna are thinking just one thing: “Follow the dolphins.”

Follow the dolphins. Just as the seabirds, the sailfish and the marlin, the sharks and the whales, the sportfishing captains and the commercial tuna-fishing fleets do. Follow the dolphins; they have the best actionable ocean intelligence. The dolphins have the network. They are always with the food.

In the Osa drop-off upwelling, where dense, cooler and nutrient-rich water is pushed toward the ocean surface, the tuna, birds and other marine life are nearly always with the dolphins. All a commercial fishing fleet has to do is find the birds on a special radar, send up a helicopter or two to check it out and call in coordinates, start corralling the dolphins with the helicopter and explosives dropped from the helicopter, put down small, fast chase boats to further corral the dolphins, use the ship to corral the dolphins even more, and then put down a very big net around the dolphins and associated marine life with the help of a special net boat.

If you do this, you get a lot of tuna in the net below the dolphins, and it’s worth a lot of money.

Sadly, this kind of bonanza is unsustainable. The longer-lived, more slowly reproducing spinners will probably die out before the tuna are exhausted, perhaps giving the tuna a chance to recuperate, because once the dolphins are gone, no one will be able to find the tuna. But how will the tuna find food without the dolphins?

Fishing industry insiders have told me that dozens of spinner dolphins are killed every day by busy boats. They die most frequently when their narrow, smiling mouths get stuck in the holes of the nets. Hundreds more must be manhandled by diving crews and thrown out of the nets daily, lest the nets are damaged.

Other Osa dolphin species, such as bottlenose and spotted dolphins, are somewhat likelier to swim out if a small piece of one end of the net is put down for a while, a procedure known as a “backdown.”

Backdowns do not help Osa’s spinner dolphins, however; they stay in the net.

Tuna fishermen say the spinners are tontos, stupid, because they do not swim away from the ship and out of the net. They seem unable to stop surfing the ship’s waves. The same trait the tourist boats love dooms the poor spinners.

Time for ‘Pelagic Park’

The blue-water pelagic (open-ocean) ecosystem domain of the Osa’s spinner dolphins is probably the most productive ecosystem in Costa Rica, perhaps in the tropical marine world. According to former members of Jacques Cousteau’s legendary conservation ship, Calypso, and the BBC’s top “Blue Planet” underwater cameramen, offshore Osa is the richest tropical blue water they have seen anywhere on the planet (see sidebar).

The dolphins’ domain is an area between five and 20 nautical miles from Caño Island Biological Reserve. The reserve’s waters currently extend only about two nautical miles; this is not enough to protect large animals such as dolphins and tuna. To protect large marine animals, you need a Corcovado or Amistad-sized park at sea.

For many years, around the world, protected marine areas have proven to increase catches in surrounding areas. With a big enough pelagic park, or better still, parks and corridors, tuna-fishing boats could make money in the long term, not just short.

An astounding number of big, amazing  animals live in the Osa drop-off upwelling area and would be protected along with the spinners. Fin, sei, Bryde’s, humpback and blue whales and orcas frequent this little upwelling. Sailfish, marlin, tuna, manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, beaked whales, pilot whales, pseudorcas, bottlenose dolphins and spotted dolphins are found here in some of the highest concentrations in the world.

A special area of the Osa drop-off upwelling, the clearest waters in Costa Rica, would be an excellent place to prohibit commercial fishing, save the spinners and allow boaters and divers to see and snorkel with dolphins and other amazing marine life in the big blue.

Many people in Costa Rica, including yours truly, already benefit greatly from tourists visiting the giant dolphin pods and other marine life congregations off the Osa. But the commercial fishing fleet will end it soon for us all if some sort of pelagic park is not created.

The spinners are dying. There seem to be a lot fewer little spinners now then there were in the past. The pods no longer stretch to the horizon in every direction.

A park is the only solution. Just as Costa Rica has demonstrated to the world the value of protecting functioning terrestrial ecosystems, we can show the world the same goes for the ocean. Costa Rica needs to make peace with the ocean as well as the rain forest. It’s time to set aside a meaningful, not miniscule, part of Costa Rica’s biggest ecosystem: the open ocean.

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Billfish Foundation Fails to Stop Australia From Making Worlds Largest Marine Protected Area

clock June 18, 2012 13:12 by author BlueEcoBlog

Billfish Foundation Fights Agaist Marine Protected Areas and Loses in Oz.

The voice of the vast majority of ocean users is heard and they are not catch and release billfishers.

Fishers should always have access to most of the worlds oceans, not just for sport but to eat! But the world does need some places in the ocean to be free of nets and lines. Catching and releasing endangered billfish is not sport fishing and not as many people do it as some would have you think.

The crazy well funded, massivly sponsered, internationally super influencial Billfish Foundation took a big wave over the bow when the Prime Minister of Australia, backed by the people of one of the most ocean savy nations on earth, said our oceans are for a lot more than just catch and release billfishing. The Billfish Foundation has waged a campaign against marine protected areas, encouraging members to come out and help stop creation of marine protected areas

 http://news.co.cr/billfish-foundation-fails-to-stop-australia-from-making-worlds-largest-marine-protected-area/8167/

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Dolphins Dancing For Laura Chinchilla Again!

clock June 16, 2012 13:21 by author BlueEcoBlog

Dolphins Dancing For Laura Chinchilla Again!

Costa Rica To Conserve Ten Percent of Oceans.

Latin America's greatest ocean hero, Laura Chinchilla, granted future Costa Ricans a much better chance of sustainably utilizing our Oceans into the future.  The sad free for all of too powerful special interests will now be controlled with vision directed to the people and the future by a new Vice Minister of Aguas and Mares.  Wow!  No thats how you do it!  Seems now the voices of all groups of ocean users, not just the most connected screaming special interests, will have a say.  Now is time for Costa Ricans to speak up about what they know about our oceans, and help conserve it.  Have you heard about the largest dolphin pod in the world, the spinner dolphins of the Osa peninsula and Cano Island?  Aaaa, happens to be they need a park!  They live near to famous protected areas Corcovado National Park and Cano Island Biological Reserve, BUT, they live in waters attacked by nets and lines.  This Park or protected area, needs to be south and west of Cano Island to at least a distance of 30 nautical miles to help these spinners.  NOT just 8 miles from the island as some are saying!  8 miles is not enough to protect the biggest dolphin pod in the world and Golfito and Puerto Jimenez need to make a lot money in the long run from conserving these dolphins, not killing them for short term collapsing profits. 

Three blue cheers for the awesome president of Costa Rica.

Check it
http://www.costacetacea.com/bluewaterpelagicpark.html

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