Help Track Down Illegal Fishing Boats in Cocos Island, Costa Rica From Your Computer

Cocos Island. Photo by Joanna Nasar, SeaTurtles.Org.

Turtle Island Restoration Network is proud to announce a new pilot program to find illegal fishing vessels within the Marine Protected Area surrounding Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Turtle Island teamed up with DigitalGlobe’s crowdsourcing platform,, to create one of the first crowd sourced, digital patrols of the marine hot-spot using satellite imagery.

Cocos Island is an important stop over for large marine wildlife like hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks, blue sharks, whale sharks, dolphins on their oceanic migrations. The Island is also a home to green and hawksbill sea turtles, who find refuge in the coral reef. Underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau dived at the Island and called it “the most beautiful island in the world.”

Cocos Island. Photo by Joanna Nasar, SeaTurtles.Org.

Yet, sadly this blue gem is under attack by illegal longline fishing vessels that enter into the marine protected zone that extends around the Island in search of tuna, sharks and Mahi mahi.

Longline fishing is a deadly type of fishing that consists of setting a main line with hundreds or thousands of baited hooks and then indiscriminately catching, harming or killing whatever swims into the line.

This practice is draining the seas of endangered marine wildlife. Air breathing endangered sea turtles that swim into the lines will often drown as they are unable to come up for air, while sharks that must swim to force water to the gills are also unable to stay alive when caught.

Furthermore longlining inside the protected marine reserve, national park and UNESCO World Heritage site around the Island is especial egregious as it puts vulnerable and endangered marine wildlife populations in extreme danger, and leaves the zone littered with fishing gear.

Longline gear re-purposed into a bridge by park rangers. Photo by Marc Merlin.

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