In May 2018, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís announced the designation of more than 10,000 acres of critical nursery habitat for the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark.
The first of its kind in Costa Rica, the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary of Golfo Dulce is the result of a collaboration between Rainforest Trust and Misión Tiburón. It establishes a new level of protection and is part of the 172,974-acre Marine Management Area and Shark Sanctuary planned for the Golfo Dulce ecosystem, which is one of only four tropical fjords in the world.
Rainforest Trust CEO Dr Paul Salaman described the move as a critical step in protecting the nursery. Researcher Andrés López, co-founder of Misión Tiburón, said, “When we started in 2010 to study the population of Scalloped Hammerhead shark in Golfo Dulce, we never thought it would become the first marine sanctuary for Costa Rica.”
The new designation will lead to the establishment of no-take zones in the wetlands of Coto River, an important nursery habitat for the sharks. The catch, capture, transport and retention of hammerhead sharks will be banned, as well as the exploitation of marine resources until a proper management plan is put in place to regulate wildlife harvesting from the protected area. Patrols will also be conducted.
“Now, this new governance model gives us hope for the future, as we believe this is the first step to develop conservation initiatives which will benefit not only endangered species but also the local communities,” said López.
Besides the hammerheads, other shark species found in Golfo Dulce include tiger sharks, bull sharks, blacktip sharks and whitetip reef sharks. It is also home to 276 fish species, 296 mollusk species, 71 macro-crustacean species, as well as whales, dolphins, rays, and sea turtles like the hawksbill turtle, green turtle and olive ridley. In addition, it sees seasonal aggregations of whale sharks.