Scuba Diving - - GEAR BAG -

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.

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