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EditPhoto Title:Costa Rica
EditPhoto Description:Challenges remain for a global leader in conservation
EditImage Url:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_66686991.jpg
EditImage Description:A foreign surfer enjoys the best of Costa Rica's ecotourism possibilities.
EditPhoto Credit: © Conservation International/photo by Mónika Naranjo González
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Costa Rica made a choice in the 1980s: to take conservation seriously and invest in nature.

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    First, it diminished deforestation, increasing forest cover from just 21% in 1987 to over 50% by 2005.

    Now, Costa Rica has directed its attention to another natural treasure: the sea. Addressing threats such as overfishing, illegal fishing and mangrove degradation, the tropical country continues to show the world how the protection and restoration of nature can enable growth and prosperity.

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    Why is Costa Rica important?

    Air We Breathe

    It is well known that trees act as the “lungs of the Earth.” Trees now blanket more than half of Costa Rica, and nearly a third of them are thriving in protected areas. More trees means more oxygen for all of us to breathe.

    Climate Stability

    By protecting forests and mangroves instead of destroying them, Costa Rica is at the forefront of the global effort to slow climate change. Costa Rica’s trees pull the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, out of the air and lock the carbon away in their wood and in the soil beneath them. The result? More than 238 million metric tons of carbon stored in Costa Rica’s forests, on top of the more than 35 million metric tons stored in 41,800 hectares of mangroves. Multiple studies indicate that coastal mangrove forests store more carbon than any other forest on Earth, making them crucial in the fight against climate change.

    Jobs and Prosperity

    From the coasts to the inland forests, Costa Rica’s natural resources provide more than beautiful settings: They represent jobs and income for both residents and the nation. The Gulf of Nicoya, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and one of the country’s most productive estuaries, provides food and livelihoods for more than 4,000 small-scale fishers. Through Costa Rica’s “payment for ecosystem services” program, farmers and landowners who maintain and restore their forests are paid for the carbon, water and biodiversity services their land provides — services that benefit people near and far. From 2010-2014, the country invested US$ 61 million in the program, benefiting more than 7,000 landowners and protecting 600,000 hectares of private land.

    Energy to Fuel Growth

    A world leader in renewable energy use, Costa Rica derives 90% of its electrical power from green sources such as water, wind and the country’s many volcanoes. Building on that success, the government aims to make Costa Rica the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021.

    Joy and Inspiration

    Costa Rica’s system of national parks and protected areas covers about 23% of the country’s land area. More than 2.5 million tourists (more than half of Costa Rica’s population) journey to swim in waterfalls, zip-line through the trees and view the country’s unique wildlife, illustrating how ecotourism can help locals earn a living from the forests in a sustainable way. The country’s diverse marine life also attracts divers and snorkelers. Annually, more than 3,000 people a year visit Cocos Island National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 365 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast with the most shark-rich waters on Earth — and the inspiration for the fictional Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park.

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    EditSection TitleWhat are the issues?
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    EditResult value:1/5
    EditResult field:of patrols find illegal activity
    EditText:In Cocos Island National Park, fish poaching — especially of sharks, driven by demand for shark fin soup — remains a problem. In one out of every five surveillance patrols, officials find illegal activity. Although all fishing is prohibited in the marine protected area, small boats still routinely catch tuna and mahi mahi, a large fish common to tropical waters. Surveillance of these waters is a complex and expensive challenge, as local rangers have limited resources. About 25 rangers are responsible for all aspects of park management, and so cannot devote adequate time to surveillance.

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    EditResult value:420,000
    EditResult field:metric tons of bycatch
    EditText:Shrimp trawling fleets that illegally enter Costa Rica’s marine protected areas discard 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of bycatch — fish and other species caught unintentionally — each year. In fact, between 1950 and 2008, almost 50% of the fish, sharks and rays caught by shrimp trawlers was discarded, totaling about 420,000 metric tons. Many trawling fleets also often fail to use turtle excluder devices, which allow a captured sea turtle to escape when caught in a fisherman’s net — leading the United States and European Union to ban the country’s shrimp exports. These illegal activities not only threaten species that are important for marine ecosystem health — they also place the thousands of local fishers who follow the rules in economic jeopardy.

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    EditCircle icon:icon-mangrove
    EditResult value:340
    EditResult field:hectares of mangroves lost
    EditText:Coastal damage linked to development and agricultural expansion has affected mangrove and coral reefs. Illegal logging, shrimp farm development and other degradation resulted in the loss of 340 hectares between 1985 and 2014. Moreover, since 1956, carbon emissions from mangrove loss in the Gulf of Nicoya are equivalent to the annual emissions from 468,364 passenger vehicles.
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    EditTitle:By the numbers
    EditSubtitle:8,000 mangroves planted
    EditText:In the community of Montero on Chira Island, 23 women planted nearly 8,000 mangroves in degraded areas over the course of a year, with support from CI and Costa Rica’s Ministry of Education.
    EditPhoto Credit:© CI
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        EditSection Title:Protecting the Pacific
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          EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_84406001.jpg
          EditImage Description:Fish swimming in Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, Cocos Island, Costa Rica, Central America.
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          Costa Rica helped develop and implement the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, where CI is working to restore critical coastal areas, end destructive fishing practices and bring the governments of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador together to sustainably manage the Pacific Ocean.

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          EditPhoto Credit:© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn
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            EditSection Title:Creating marine management areas
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              EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_60378441.jpg
              EditImage Description:Dolphin jumping at sunset, Cocos Islands, Costa Rica
              EditText:In 2011, CI helped the government of Costa Rica establish the Seamounts Marine Management Area, a vast protected park centered around remote Cocos Island off the country’s Pacific coast. Costa Rica’s seamounts — mountains rising from the ocean floor that do not break the surface of the water — create rich feeding grounds for native species and provide habitats for migratory species like hammerhead sharks, manta rays, turtles, whales and tuna. The new park — the first in the region created solely for protecting seamounts — gives these species a place to live free of the pressures of commercial fishing.
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                EditSection Title:Enforcing illegal fishing
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                  EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_89117880.jpg
                  EditImage Description:Hammer from Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
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                  Since 2004, CI has worked with national and international organizations to strengthen management capacity, provide gear and tools for local authorities and promote collaboration between Cocos Island National Park and other island-based protected areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape. For the past three years, we have teamed with Forever Costa Rica, Oceans 5 (an organization that includes the actor Leonardo DiCaprio among its main partners) and supporting government agencies to install a high-tech radar system in Cocos to help authorities enforce illegal activities that threaten environmental, food and national security.

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                  EditLink for Header and Image:http://blog.conservation.org/2014/08/conservation-tools-radar-system-could-be-instrumental-in-protecting-sharks/[Optional]
                  EditPhoto Credit:© Barry Peter/Flickr Creative Commons
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                    EditSection Title:Restoring mangroves
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                      EditImage URL:/sitecollectionimages/ci_31661333.jpg
                      EditImage Description:Mangroves at Terraba Sierpe National Park, Costa Rica
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                      Conservation International is working in the Gulf of Nicoya to protect the diverse mangrove ecosystem that provides vital habitat for fisheries, income for more than 6,000 fishermen and food for nearby communities.

                      Read More
                      EditLink for Header and Image:http://blog.conservation.org/2014/05/finding-hope-in-a-degraded-mangrove/[Optional]
                      EditPhoto Credit: © Conservation International/ photo by Sarah Hoyt
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                        EditSection Title:Monitoring forest health
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                          EditImage Description:Badru Mugerwa and Lawrence Tumugabirwe set camera trap
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                          The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network is an innovative partnership among CI, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian Institution aimed at understanding how tropical forests respond to a changing climate and disturbed landscapes. This wide-reaching partnership enables TEAM to monitor vegetation plots, mammals and birds in 19 protected areas, including Costa Rica’s Braulio Carrillo National Park. There, TEAM is currently developing a management plan for several small mammals that provide food for local communities but have seen significant declines in recent years.

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                          EditLink for Header and Image:/projects/Pages/TEAM-Network-An-early-warning-system-for-nature.aspx[Optional]
                          EditPhoto Credit:© Benjamin Drummond
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                          EditCall to Action Title:What can you do?
                          EditCall to Action Description:Costa Rica’s conservation success is a model for the world. When you support us, you can help our global conservation efforts, such as encouraging other nations to follow sustainable paths.
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                          You can also help if you...

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                          EditSection Title:Eat sustainable seafood
                          EditSection subtitle:Not all seafood is created equal. You can help keep fish in the ocean by eating only seafood that’s been sustainably sourced.
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                          EditSection Title:Travel sustainably
                          EditSection subtitle:One of the 2 million tourists who will travel to Costa Rica this year? Check out our tips for “greening” your adventure.
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                          EditSection Title:Stay up to date
                          EditSection subtitle:Like CI Costa Rica’s Facebook page for pictures and news from the field.
                          EditButton link:https://www.facebook.com/ConservacionIntlCR
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                          EditTitle:Climate
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                          EditImage Alt Text:Night falls over Rio de Janeiro. © Nikada
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                          EditTitle:Science and Innovation
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                          EditImage Alt Text:Scientists set a camera trap. © Benjamin Drummond
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                          EditTitle:The Ocean
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                          EditLink:/what/Pages/oceans.aspx
                          EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse
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