Scientists and Scuba Divers Working Together to Save Cocos Island’s Spectacular Marine Life

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.5/5 (2 votes cast)

By Todd Steiner, Executive Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network

Twice each year, for the past seven years, I have made the 20-hour trip by boat to Cocos Island, 350 miles from the Costa Rican mainland.  This journey is well-worth the effort – Jacques Cousteau described Cocos Island as the most beautiful island in the world, and I would have to agree.

At this remote location, my organization, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and our partners have established an active citizen science project through which divers and scientists work together to study one of the most biologically-rich ocean ecosystems left on the planet.

Cocos sea turtle, photo by George Duffield

Cocos sea turtle, photo by George Duffield

I’m heading back to Cocos in April, and for the first time, people with no diving background will have the chance to join me – to tag and monitor sea turtles and even take a journey in the DeepSee Submersible to see some of the deepest reefs on earth.

The deep reefs are just one of Cocos Island’s wonders.  A shallow fringing reef encircles the island’s bays and then the seafloor drops sharply. The unique confluence of ocean countercurrents, wind currents, and underwater mountains combines to create an ecosystem that supports one of the most amazing displays of marine life on the planet.

Cocos scalloped hammerhead, photo by George Duffield

Cocos scalloped hammerhead, photo by George Duffield

Hundreds of scalloped hammerhead sharks spend their days being “cleaned” by the butterfly and angelfish that pick parasites from around their gills. Also regularly seen are whitetip reef sharks resting on the sand or hunting in packs in the shallow coral reefs at night.

Cocos’ abundant marine wildlife has made the region a magnet for scientists and scuba enthusiasts, who often rank the waters as one of the top ten diving spots on the planet.  Yet despite its designation as a Costa Rican National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the waters of Cocos Island face overfishing, plastic pollution that washes in from far away places, ocean acidification that is harming reef communities, and climate change that could unravel the unique mix of currents that make the place such a rich and diverse ecosystem.

Raffle Winner Greg Holzer and turtle

Raffle Winner Greg Holzer and turtle

To help monitor what’s happening in the reserve, Turtle Island enlists the scuba-diving community as citizen-scientist assistants to catch, tag and monitor turtles, tag sharks, take photographs, and record data, helping to ensure that the place will remain worthy of Cousteau-like praise for generations to come.

We are currently seeking divers – and non-divers – to become volunteer research assistants on the upcoming April and November Cocos expeditions.  To learn more, visit: www.seaturtles.org/expeditions.  Spaces are filling fast, so please contact us today to learn more.


Todd Steiner and tagged turtle

Todd Steiner and tagged turtle

Todd Steiner is a biologist and lifelong advocate for marine wildlife and ocean ecosystems. He founded nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) and its three primary initiatives — the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, and the Got Mercury Campaign. TIRN’s oldest initiative, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, began as Todd’s brainchild at Earth Island Institute in 1989. Previously, Steiner was director of the Tuna Dolphin project, which brought to public view for the first time the tuna industry’s impact on dolphins and other marine species. He has more than 30 years experience in environmental protection and education. He holds an MS in Biology and lives in Forest Knolls, California.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.5/5 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Scientists and Scuba Divers Working Together to Save Cocos Island’s Spectacular Marine Life, 3.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
Bookmark and Share

8 comments for “Scientists and Scuba Divers Working Together to Save Cocos Island’s Spectacular Marine Life

  1. February 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    No we don’t have super-fast ship… 20 hours is a typo– it’s closer to a 36 hours voyage to Cocos.

    Todd

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 1.0/5 (2 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. bret gilliam
    February 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Todd,

    Keep up the good work! But I really feel screwed… I’ve been going o Cocos since 1988. But if you are somehow doing the 380 nautical mile transit in 20 hours, I need the name of the vessel you’re using. For most of us it’s at least a 36-38 hour ride in sometimes nasty sea conditions. Or did you do it on a jet ski?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. John Bantin
    February 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Just go back from Cocos where I travelled to with a Brit who had never dived before outside the UK. During the 36 hour journey, he looked out at the Pacific Ocean and said something profound:
    “Big, isn’t it?”
    I guess he summed it up perfectly!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  4. Robert
    March 8, 2013 at 2:26 am

    FIRST TIME I SAW THE MOVIE ISLAND OF THE SHARKS I SAID TO MY SELF I HAVE TO DIVE THERE…BEEN THERE TWICE NOW I NEED ANOTHER COCOS FIX. AND I CAN NOT STOP. YOU SAY YOU WANT TO TAKE NON DIVERS THERE TO TAG SHARKS AND TURTLES.I AM A NORTH EAST NEW JERSEY COLD WATER WRECK DIVER, I MY SELF WOULD NOT RECOMEND A NON OR PERSON WITH LITTLE EXPERENCE TO DIVE COCOS ISLAND.MANY DIVES I WENT IN WITH THE SUN SHINING, NO WIND ,ONLY TO POP UP AN HOUR OR SO LATTER IN A RAIN STORM WITH HEAVY WINDS BIG WAVES, WAITING FOR THE PONGA CLIMBING UP THE LADDERS OF A PONGA BOUNCING LIKE A CORK IN A ROLLING POT OF BOILING WATER..BUT WITH A GRIN FROM EAR TO EAR AS THE REG COMES OUT MY MOUTH ALL I KEEP SAYING IS WOW…WOW…WOW ANY WAY KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK IF WE DO NOT DO IT NO ONE WILL SAVE COCOS ISLAND AND ALL THAT LIVES UNDER IT

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  5. April 18, 2013 at 9:24 am

    great work!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  6. April 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Hi Todd,
    Can you assist in our mission to understand the Ocean and its infinite power, we have made dramatic mathematical discoveries and are seeking help with scientifically proving to the World what is happening, an alien from another world would understand as it is the pure equilibrium of all the elements that gives life, we need a molecular biologist to re-confirm that this process is real,
    Many thanks,
    Dathan Berry

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  7. September 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    We have just announced our first 2014 Cocos expedition date: May 26 – June 5, 2014.

    The expedition is filling fast. Your expenses may be tax-deductible. For more info visit: http://www.seaturtles.org/expeditions

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. April 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    The Cocos is on the bucket list of almost all serious divers around the world! It would be wise to get there as soon as possible before all of this stuff we are doing to our earth and ocean ruins it forever!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *