Swimway is Looking For Enhanced Protection of Endangered Species in Marine Hotspots

Most divers already know that the Cocos Island and the Galapagos are marine megafauna hotspots. So, it is normal to see mantas, scalloped hammerheads, sea turtles, and whale sharks, among other endangered species on a typical dive at either location.

Both these areas are also heavily protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national parks. However, endangered species will not likely hang out on either one island or the other. Usually, they migrate between these areas along a submerged mountain range called the Cocos Ridge, to think commercial fishing has free access to this huge area in the region.

Consequently, the Cocos-Galapagos Swimway has been proposed by Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) founder and executive director. This stretch of the sea will be the first transboundary initiative that will connect these marine protected areas.

This concept was derived from 2001, when the governments of Costa Rica and Ecuador inked a joint presidential declaration in a collaborative effort to ensure protected connectivity between the Galapagos National Park and the Isla Cocos Reserve.

In this regard, TIRN has teamed up with Leatherback Trust and MigraMar for the gathering of data about the movement of animals between the protected areas. Having been able to gather substantial biological evidence, the Swimway coalition is looking to gather petition signatures in both countries to request for implementation from the public.

Nevertheless, despite the efforts working with national governments, simultaneous support is still not acquired with individual administrations periodically on-board. Thus, there is uncertainty in the enforcement of protections across the huge swath of  open ocean. At the same time, there is a pushback from the commercial fishing industry.

But hope still remains after a possible expansion of the Galapagos reserve in collaboration with the fishing industry in Ecuador. This is a commitment to the 30x30 initiative, a cooperation of countries protecting at least 30% of the national waters by 2030.

Costa Rica also committed to create a 30x30 plan, but there is still no detailed plan of action that has been made public with only a small portion of its ocean that remains protected.

Plans are still under development, so the conservation community is still hopeful that enhanced protection for the endangered inhabitants will be achieved with Swimway leading the way.

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