The low-down on Golfo Dulce, baby sharks, and China

In 2012 ARCAE is performing a marine fauna visual survey of the mouth of the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) along Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific coast.  The project’s data will contribute to a national campaign to establish an increased number of marine protected areas and responsible fishing zones in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.  The Golfo Dulce is a nursery for juvenile sharks.  Females travel from the open ocean to this coastal area to birth their pups near mangroves and in the turbid waters where the young sharks find protection from larger predators.  In order to increase the global population of sharks, it’s crucial that biologically sensitive areas – like those of the Golfo Dulce – are identified and protected against unsustainable fishing practices including shark finning.  

The project comes at an important time for Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific coast.  Free trade agreements with China (signed into law in August, 2011) allow for the large scale extraction of Costa Rican fishery resources by the Asian superpower.  It’s believed that China will exert increasing political pressure on Costa Rica to implement marine resource extraction projects that fuel its insatiable appetite for shark fins and other marine delicacies.  

ARCAE’s visual marine survey is helping to scientifically justify the need to protect these waters and to support local, Costa Rican based, economic development initiatives.  It’s a tough fight, but the ARCAE team is committed to doing what’s right.

While shark protection initiatives by the Costa Rican government will have little impact globally as far as populations are concerned, the country has the power to be a marine conservation example for others to follow, much like it has done in the field of rainforest protection through its acclaimed national park system.

If you would like to learn more or participate in this type of marine research, contact Andy Bystrom at


Data on species location through the first 10 marine fauna visual survey boat trips


Mouth of the Golfo Dulce, Southern Pacific coast, Costa Rica


This juvenile shark was caught on a hook attached to a lone buoy that had been cut loose from a longline set inside the project site. Shark was still alive and was freed!





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