Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica is 1 of only 4 tropical fjords in the world and is an exceptional ecosystem that is home to magnificent animals like humpback and sperm whales, manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, corals, green sea turtles, snappers and hundreds of shark species. The gulf is surrounded by rainy forests, mangroves and sandy beaches and happens to be a nursery for the scalloped hammerhead shark, with thousands of baby sharks born there every year.
Recent research suggests evidence of a biological connection between the scalloped hammerheads in critical coastal habitats and the surrounding waters of Cocos Island, making this gulf a crucial area to protect. As the worldwide demand for commercial fish grows, the populations of the endangered scalloped hammerhead continue to dwindle.
The species is protected in oceanic islands, but there are few conservation efforts in coastal and nursery areas, leaving the future populations vulnerable. Golfo Dulce Hope Spot VCA is the focus of the Mision Tiburon Conservationist Association, a Costa Rican NGO, aiming to promote the research, management and conservation of sharks and marine life.
Ilena Zanella and Andres Lopez both marine biologists and founders of Mision Tiburon, are the Champions of the Hope Spot and manage many of the conservation activities here.
In 2017 upon recording prominent populations of juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks in the gulf’s waters, they started talking with the fishermen associations of Golfo Dulce to discuss a strategy for protection. Based on this strategy, in March 2018, the Fishing Commission of Golfo Dulce enacted temporary closures of bottom long lines from May to October of each year.
In November 2018, Zanella and Andres signed an Agreement with the Ministry of Environment to strengthen the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary to include support of Surveillance and Protection Program in Golfo Dulce, implementation of educational programs, international promotion and scientific monitoring of the scalloped hammerhead shark population.
Hope Spot Champion Andres Lopez says, “The declaration of Golfo Dulce as a Hope Spot recognizes the importance of this unique ecosystem for marine biodiversity, especially for scalloped hammerhead sharks.”
The conservation of this site is divided into three activity areas:
- Marine education- Sensitising Costa Rican and International society about the importance of sharks in our oceans, the threats that they are facing and their populations decline.
- Marine research- By conducting scientific research with sharks and others marine species to determine management strategies, in order to promote their conservation and responsible use.
- Political and social advocacy- Using technical and scientific information as a tool for influencing civil society and public policy to promote the conservation of sharks and others marine species.