Holding 5% of the Earth’s biodiversity and with more than 35% of its terrestrial territory protected, Costa Rica has famed itself for making an example of “Sustainable Development”. However, if this complex approach was functioning, why are our endangered species still endangered? Why are our biological hotspots, especially the coastal marine areas, the most endangered, and why are human communities that border these hotspots the poorest, and thus, represent the highest threat to biodiversity? Because Sustainable Development is a high-class term and in order to be effective, it requires bottom-up decision-making, not those imposed by the government.
Costa Rica has been a popular tourism destination for decades, concentrated along both of our coasts. The ever-growing infrastructure is causing human-wildlife conflicts and biodiversity to retract to isolated areas (National Parks), impeding sustainable genetic connectivities in the long term. Maybe, the last chance to correct this superiority of humans can take place where there is (almost) no tourism industry yet, such as in the North Pacific of Costa Rica, specifically in El Jobo of Guanacaste.
Here, a group of local community members, many of which are fishermen, joined efforts with biologists (including myself) and small-scale tourism operators to pursue the common goal of achieving sustainable development for the natural resources in Punta Descartes, the northern-most peninsula of Costa Rica. Since 2015, fishermen adopted scientific protocols to monitor the abundant wildlife that calls El Jobo it’s home: sea turtles, sharks and rays, whales and dolphins, parrots and monkeys…many of which are on the brink of extinction. Despite El Jobo is among the poorest districts of the country, their guided research projects have turned tables for this fishing village: Volunteers and tourists come to stay with local families to learn about their culture, and help with releasing turtle hatchlings, counting parrots and tagging rays. Their visits pay the fishermen`s salaries and therein, preserving and studying biodiversity became economically efficient for everyone, a basal requisite for sustainable development.
Get a glance on their work:
“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.” -Sylvia Earle