Scientists are fighting to protect a shark and turtle 'superhighway'

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This communicative was identified by Call to Earth impermanent exertion Kerstin Forsberg. She is simply a marine idiosyncratic and Rolex Award Laureate who helped unafraid nationalist extortion for elephantine manta rays successful Peru.

(CNN)Deep successful the Pacific Ocean, an underwater "superhighway" stretches astir 700 kilometers (430 miles) betwixt the marine reserves of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island, disconnected the seashore of Costa Rica.

It's captious to the oversea beingness -- including oversea turtles, whale sharks and hammerhead sharks -- that moves backmost and distant betwixt the islands, looking for a spot to nest oregon foraging for food.

But the way tin beryllium dangerous. Unlike the marine reserves astatine each end, the swimway is unfastened to sportfishing vessels. Data shows that populations of migratory species, galore of which are already endangered, are declining.

    Schools of hammerhead sharks migrate on the swimway. (Courtesy Alex Hearn)

      Protecting biodiversity hotspots astir the islands is not enough, says Alex Hearn, biology prof and founding subordinate of MigraMar, a conjugation of scientists and biology groups. His squad is campaigning for the full swimway to beryllium protected -- an country that would agelong implicit 240,000 quadrate kilometres (93,000 quadrate miles) of ocean, astir the size of the United Kingdom.

      This would widen sportfishing restrictions beyond the existent 22-kilometer radius astir Cocos Island and the 74-kilometer radius astir the Galapagos islands, creating a constrictive protected transmission betwixt the 2 that follows a concatenation of seamounts, underwater mountains that emergence from the oversea floor.

      Like landmarks for the ocean, the seamounts are captious for navigation. Made from lava, they emit magnetic signals, which immoderate species, specified arsenic hammerhead sharks and oversea turtles, trust connected to find themselves, explains Hearn. He says these enactment arsenic "stepping stones," providing places for oversea creatures to provender and remainder during migration.

      A crippled of tag

      For much than a decade, MigraMar's web of scientists person been trying to beryllium the value of the swimway by documenting the taxon that usage it. They person placed outer and ultrasonic tags connected astir 400 marine organisms to way their migratory routes.

      So far, they person successfully tracked the migration of whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, leatherback turtles and greenish turtles betwixt the 2 islands. And successful February, for the archetypal time, they discovered grounds of tiger sharks, erstwhile a nine-foot-long pistillate tiger shark scientists had tagged successful the Galapagos 7 years agone surfaced astatine Cocos Island.

      All of these taxon are suffering from colonisation diminution and are listed arsenic vulnerable, endangered oregon critically endangered, but the tiger shark which is considered adjacent threatened. As tiger sharks are 1 of the apical predators successful the Pacific, it is captious to support their migratory pathway, says Todd Steiner, enforcement manager of Turtle Island Restoration Network and different founding subordinate of MigraMar.

      "The interaction of tiger sharks is felt each the mode down the nutrient chain," helium tells CNN. "Having a steadfast ecosystem wherever tiger sharks past is important."

      The hook

      The astir communal menace to these migratory taxon is fishing. They tin beryllium accidentally caught by sportfishing vessels, entangle themselves successful nets, oregon successful the lawsuit of sharks, are illegally hunted for their nutrient and fins.

      Compared to different threats they face, specified arsenic clime change, sportfishing is easier for america to control, says Steiner.

      Coastal countries tin restrict activities successful their territorial waters, helium explains, and the Cocos-Galapagos swimway falls nether the jurisdiction of some Ecuador and Costa Rica. "A mates of signatures connected a portion of insubstantial tin commencement the process to support this vitally important ecological area," helium says.

      Scientists person  tagged marine taxon  specified  arsenic  whale sharks to way   their migratory route.

      MigraMar and biology enactment Pacifico person produced a document outlining the request to make the swimway, calling for it to see "no instrumentality zones" that prohibit quality disturbance specified arsenic sportfishing oregon dredging, oregon absorption zones wherever lone sustainable and seasonal sportfishing is permitted.

      Carlos Chacón, coordinator of Pacífico, says that uncovering "common ground" with the sportfishing assemblage volition beryllium important successful ratifying the swimway arsenic a marine protected country (MPA). The connection has already been met with absorption from the sportfishing manufacture successful some countries, helium says, who assertion it would person a antagonistic interaction connected business.

      Atunec, the Ecuadorian Tuna Boat Association, opposed a antithetic proposal to grow the Galapagos marine reserve past year, saying that the country is precise affluent successful sportfishing and creating a no-take portion would trim its catch.

      However, Chacón believes that successful the agelong word marine protected areas volition person a affirmative interaction connected fishing. "MPAs go nurseries," helium says, wherever food turn and reproduce, causing wide stocks to summation and much food to go disposable extracurricular the protected area.

      It could besides person economical benefits successful different sectors. Cocos and the Galapagos pull visitors acknowledgment to their affluent biodiversity and preserving iconic oversea beingness could support the tourism sector.

      Time is short

      Ecuador and Costa Rica are presently considering plans to support the swimway, with MigraMar's information being utilized to pass their decisions.

      Both nations person signed up to the Global Ocean Alliance, a UK-led inaugural that calls for 30% of the water to beryllium protected by 2030. This shows governmental will, says Steiner, but with lone 13% of Ecuador's and 3% of Costa Rica's waters safeguarded truthful far, the countries request to person this volition into action.

      Closing disconnected the swimway to sportfishing fleets could assistance support endangered hammerhead sharks. (Courtesy Cesar Peñaherrera)

      Costa Rica is presently "implementing a strategy to summation conservation, particularly by creating and strengthening marine protected areas," Haydée Rodríguez Romero, the government's vice curate for h2o and the ocean, tells CNN. This volition impact expanding conservation astir Cocos Island, she says, adding that "we admit the value of protecting the swimways."

      While the authorities of Ecuador did not respond to CNN's petition for remark by the clip of publication, it has been reported that it is looking astatine extending the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which would screen the full Ecuadorian broadside of the swimway. Rodríguez Romero says that the 2 countries are successful treatment implicit marine protected areas and instrumentality enforcement successful the ocean.

        "Momentum is building, and the subject is clear," says Steiner. "We're hopeful that enactment volition beryllium taken successful the adjacent future." But helium warns that with immoderate taxon nether menace of extinction, governments request to enactment fast.

        "We've taken babe steps," helium says, "but these endangered taxon don't person clip for that."

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