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February 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Cocos-Galapagos Swimway for Turtles and Sharks

from the February, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Even if you haven't yet been there, you've probably read our many articles and reader reports about Costa Rica's Cocos Island, the island of the sharks, and the wonderful diving to be had farther south in the Galapagos. The United Nations has declared these two diverse biological hotspots as World Heritage Sites. While that provides them a degree of protection, the 400- mile underwater superhighway between the two areas, equivalent to the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco, remains unprotected, forcing migrating shark species to run the gauntlet of long-line hooks that lay in wait for them.

Todd Steiner, founder and executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, has proposed a novel solution: the Cocos-Galapagos Swimway. "It will be the first protected corridor for turtles and sharks connecting the national parks of two sovereign nations," he wrote us. "This swimway falls within the overlapping regions of Costa Rica and Ecuador's exclusive economic zones, allowing a giant swath of critical habitat to be protected by a single bilateral agreement. It will be the world's first marine protected area that links the economic well-being of two nations, and the first 95,000-square-mile safety zone for migrating species."

Steiner's organization is working with partners and governments in Costa Rica and Ecuador to start creating the political will. He's hoping the proposed Swimway will become a reality in the next two to three years. You can read more details about the project in the blog post he wrote for National Geographic at

And while there's no donation process yet to fund the Swimway project, you can help protect the turtles and sharks that use it by donating funds to Swimway proponents like the Turtle Island Restoration Network ( and the Galapagos Conservation Trust (

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