Fish swimming in Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, Cocos Island, Costa Rica     

Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape

The jewel of the Pacific Ocean is at risk of losing its luster — but we can turn things around.

© CI/Sterling Zumbrunn
 
A map of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape.

Covering nearly 2 million square kilometers (770,000 square miles), the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape comprises the waters, coasts and islands off the shores of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.

It’s a special place — one where you’ll find bigger populations of many species than you would anywhere else on Earth. It attracts thousands of visitors every year. It’s one of the most productive fisheries in the world.

And it’s too important for humanity to lose.

Why is the Eastern Tropical Pacific important?

Jobs and Prosperity

Within the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, more than 5 million people live within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the coast. Whether they work in the commercial fisheries, are involved with the thriving tourism trade, have a job in shipping or simply benefit from all of this economic activity, few people who live near the eastern Pacific are untouched by its bounty.

Protection from Storms

The vast mangroves, or coastal forests, in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape help keep people safe — protecting coastlines from soil erosion, buffering communities from hurricanes and serving as nurseries for valuable commercial species. And scientists are increasingly coming to understand their value in capturing and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change.

Food We Eat

Coastal communities within the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape are highly dependent on fishing to get protein in their diets. In addition, the waters in this region are some of the most productive tuna grounds on the planet. To sustain important fish species and keep families fed, everyone — from local communities to regional governments — must adopt sustainable practices.

Joy and Inspiration

The deep blue waters, rich coastal habitats and unique wildlife (including one-third of the world’s whale species) of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape have inspired millions. Each of the four countries within the region boasts a marine UNESCO World Heritage Site — including the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador, the site of a well-known visit from Charles Darwin in 1835.

What are the issues?

30% fisheries overexploited or depleted

Overfishing

Worldwide, around 30% of fisheries are overexploited or depleted. In the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, both industrial and small-scale fishermen are catching too many fish to meet growing demand. This leads to a loss of jobs, incomes and food supplies — and puts protected areas in grave danger.

50% leatherback turtles caught inadvertently

Bycatch

Bottom trawlers and industrial longline vessels unintentionally snare sharks and turtles, resulting in drastic reductions in populations, like the eastern Pacific population of the critically endangered leatherback. Up to 50% of the remaining Pacific leatherbacks are caught each year by longline fishermen.

80% mangroves destroyed in 1 province

Habitat destruction

The area’s coastlines are impacted by tourism, fishing and the recent boom in “aquaculture,” or fish farming. In one coastal province of Ecuador, shrimp farming — a particularly damaging form of aquaculture driven by high global demand — has led to the destruction of 80% of the region’s critical mangroves.

Our solutions

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape covers an area nearly three times the size of Texas.

It’s an enormous challenge to monitor what’s going on in an area that big — and to protect it from threats like illegal fishing, overfishing and pollution. But Conservation International is facing this challenge head-on. Since we began work in the region in 2004, we’ve supported the creation or expansion of more than 20 marine protected areas (MPAs). And we’re working around the region to restore the critical coastal areas, end destructive fishing practices such as overfishing and trawling and coordinate cooperation among the governments of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador to create a more sustainable Pacific Ocean.

 
A starfish in Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
© CI/photo by Edgardo Ochoa

Restoring Costa Rica’s coral reefs

Conservation International is teaming up with the University of Costa Rica’s Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) to protect and restore Costa Rica's most vital coral reefs. While climate change is causing coral reefs to decline globally, pioneering work in Costa Rica's southern Pacific gives cause for hope. In less than a year, scientists have successfully propagated three coral species in nurseries, and have planted them in the beautiful Golfo Dulce reef, where exciting early results are showing high survival rates. Now, Conservation International and CIMAR need your support to refine these innovative techniques and scale up restoration efforts throughout Costa Rica.

Donate

How you can help

Eat sustainable food

Not all seafood is created equal. You can help keep fish in the ocean by eating only seafood that’s been sustainably sourced.

© CI/photo by Alex MacLennan

Travel sustainably

Going on vacation? Traveling and the things that go with it can harm the environment — but there are ways to limit your impact.

© CI/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn
© Cristina Mittermeier

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