THE EASTERN PACIFIC HAS
more than its share of Earth’s most spectacular marine life and diving encounters. At its core is the Golden Triangle: Costa Rica’s Cocos, Colombia’s Malpelo and Ecuador’s Galapagos. The names of these islands rightly evoke images of sheer underwater magnificence: big shoals of big fish, including jacks, barracudas and tunas. Megafauna, from the only place yet discovered where large, pregnant whale sharks gather. Earth’s largest aggregations of tropical dolphins. Famous schools of hammerheads and silky sharks. The key area for huge and growing jumbo squid populations. Breeding and feeding grounds for blue, sperm and humpback whales. For biganimal encounters, particularly schooling sharks, there probably is nowhere else on Earth where divers can encounter these kinds of numbers.
It’s an exciting time, as scientists begin to unlock the secrets of the region and the movements of its charismatic giants through deep water and along its chains of seamounts.
Exciting, but tempered by concerns brought by this same burgeoning understanding. Tagging of large animals and a better appreciation of the area’s seasons and ecology are giving us insight into how this region works. We know more now about the migrations of large ocean travelers between these island and seamount hot spots. Hammerheads and other sharks use these areas for rest and socializing, heading out and away at night to feed, with some animals moving between sites with the seasons.
But as migrating animals move away from and between these islands, they move out of protected areas — and toward an unknown fate.
Immense aggregations of jacks are a hallmark of Cocos, now under threat from illegal and unsustainable fishing.
UNDEFENDED HIGHWAYS The migration corridors between these hot spots have little or no protection from fishing. This remarkable area has been hit hard; much of the fishing is unregulated, and certainly some of it is illegal.