Remote and pristine, Cocos Island National Park sits in the Pacific Ocean, 550 kilometers (340 miles) from Costa Rica.
The biodiversity of Cocos Island, sometimes called the “Little Galapagos,” is rich: 235 plant species, 400 insect species, five species of reptiles, and 100 species of birds. Its waters have three species of sea turtles, 50 species of mollusks, more than 30 species of coral, 60 species of crustaceans, and 250 species of fish. Some of those fish include yellowfin tuna, white-tip and hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, sailfish, and giant manta rays. Among the marine mammals found at Cocos Island National Park are humpback whales, sea lions, and bottlenose dolphins.
The diversity of marine life is the result of climate, exposure to diverse ocean currents, and geology—the region’s caves, tunnels, and reefs. The climate is tropical and wet, and the island receives more than 6 meters (20 feet) of rainfall every year.
Cocos Island was used by pirates to stash treasure from the 1600s through the 1800s. Pirates and other visitors had a lasting, detrimental effect on the environment. They introduced non-native species, both accidentally and on purpose. Plants such as coffee and animals such as pigs, rats, and goats have harmed the island’s native species and delicate habitats.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, overfishing was a big threat to the ocean surrounding Cocos Island. The fishery was driven in part by a growing demand around the world for seafood like tuna and shark fin soup, a delicacy in many Asian countries.
Cocos Island was made a national park by Costa Rica in 1978. It was established as an official marine protected area (MPA) in 1982. The MPA covers 2,095 square kilometers (809 square miles). Cocos Island National Park is managed by Costa Rica’s National Ministry for Energy and the Environment. More....