|Town/Region||Islas Murcielagos (Bat Islands)|
|Continent||Central and Latin America|
|Categories||Fishes, Habitats, Marine|
|Date||3 Sep 2012|
The Guanacaste Conservation Area (GCA) is located in northwestern Costa Rica; is UNESCO World Heritage Site. At GCA are located the “Bat Islands”, which are visited by divers to see the natural congregations of bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas). The aggregations of C. leucas are a very important touristic attraction for the communities located next to GCA, such as Playa Hermosa, Cuajiniquil and, especially, Playas del Coco. The last one is a small community with 6 different dive shops that, during the rainy season, promote dives to see bull sharks. Because of that, this species is an important economic resource for the communities. Despite of the importance for the recreational diving sector, bull sharks in Guanacaste are threatened by: pollution, habitat degradation and overfishing, in fact a direct fishery exists, inside (illegal operations) and outside the GCA. Bat Islands are located on the boundary of the marine protected area (MPA), so the GCA cannot provide the adequate protection for this species.
This project aims to improve the management and conservation of C. leucas in Guanacaste, describing its habitat use, distribution and, at the same time, seeks to identify critical habitats inside and outside the MPA, for their future protection and management. During the first stage of the project, we are going to tag 10 bull sharks with acoustic transmitters, and we will place 2 receivers, one at Bat Island and other outside of the marine protected area. This information will be complemented with underwater visual counts; in this way, we are going to study the the bull shark population, inside and outside of the MPA. The information resulted will be used for propose conservation actions for the specie, especially outside of the MPA, where fishermen are pressing the marine resources, basically without any regulation. At the same time, we will involve community stakeholders and we will implement an educational program for students, divers and fishermen, raising awareness about the value of a bull shark (the environmental and economic values).
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