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Costa Rica

Islas Catalinas


Conservation benefit: Promotion of establishment of a marine protected area for giant manta rays

Community benefit: Environmental education programs for local schools

Date Approved: 04.2016


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

The uninhabited Islas Catalinas—Sombrero, Viuda, and Acuario—lie nine kilometers off the west coast of Costa Rica. They are home to many kinds of fish and rays, including spotted eagle rays and the threatened giant manta rays, which have a wingspan of up to 22 feet. Hunting rays is illegal, but they are caught in nets and long lines. Their populations have been declining.

The islands lie between two protected areas, Santa Rosa National Park and Las Baulas National Marine Park. The islands don’t have a great deal of live coral cover. They do, however, have high fish diversity, because upwellings bring nutrients from the ocean floor to shallower areas. The small coastal towns near the Catalinas (Potrero, Brasilito, Playas del Coco, and Flamingo) rely on tourism, agriculture, and artisanal fisheries. Most of the fishing fleet has been modified for tourism.

Our partner, Misión Tiburón, will provide environmental education to 450 to 500 students, aged 7 to 12, during the next school year. Misión Tiburón will also hold workshops for fishers, hotel owners, divers, sport fishers, tour operators, and local government and development associations. Their goal is to promote designation of a marine protected area (MPA) to protect the rays and their ecosystem. Misión Tiburón is already working with the government to obtain MPA status.

Project Updates

May 2018

This outreach and education campaign funded by Seacology is now complete. Misión Tiburón is continuing to work toward gaining marine protected area status for the area.

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January 2018

Misión Tiburón is working with the government, as well as the managers of a neighboring marine protected area, on gaining MPA status. They recently held educational workshops for staff and officials of the Tempisque Conservation Area.

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May 2017

Misión Tiburón has now reached about 500 local students, parents, and teachers with its message of the importance of protecting the marine environment. This summer, Misión Tiburón will hold two educational workshops for staff and officials of the Protected Areas National System, with the goal of creating a strategy to gain appropriate legal protection for the marine area around the island.

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January 2017

Our partner Misión Tiburón has begun to provide environmental education to local students, holding two series of educational talks stressing the biological importance of the island and the giant mantas. About 125 students attended the talks; they also played games and painted a marine-themed mural. Misión Tiburón is working with the government, as well as the managers of a neighboring marine protected area, on gaining MPA status.

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