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.