Welcome to Shark Island

posted: 06/09/15
by: Danny Clemens
Sunny Beach on Cocos Island

Cocos Island lies 350 miles off of the coast of Costa Rica. The picturesque volcanic island is small, with a circumference of only 12 miles -- but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with its rich assortment of sharks.

Nicknamed "Shark Island", the island is home to a remarkably diverse and abundant population of sharks, rays and other marine wildlife. From whale to white tip reef to hammerhead, sharks can be found swimming in the warm waters of Cocos at all hours of the day and night. By some accounts, Cocos Island is home to more sharks per cubic yard of water than any other marine habitat on Earth.

Whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus) following scent trail Pacific Ocean, Coco Island, Costa Rica
Getty Images

Caves, coral reef and volcanic tunnels surrounding the island are home to a variety of other fish, including humpback whales, sea lions, bottle nose dolphins and yellowfin tuna.

As is the case with many marine habitats around the planet, human influence is increasingly encroaching upon the island. Although the island itself is designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Nature Conservancy reports that commercial fishing is a growing threat to the island's biodiversity.

Although shark finning is banned in Costa Rica, it still commonly occurs around Cocos Island. In just one month, park rangers on the island confiscated 200 miles of fishing line and 700 buoys from shark finning operations, according to a 2013 report from Public Radio International. The report also revealed tension and corruption within the Costa Rican government's fishing agency, INCOPESCA, which is allegedly stacked with officials from the fishing industry, who impede efforts to curtail finning.

"We can't do our jobs as rangers," laments a Cocos ranger. "If I go to the fisheries board and say, 'OK, well, we need this sanction to do this or this', they say 'Oh no, don't do that. You'll get my boats in trouble.'"

The large presence of finning operations has been corroborated first-hand by Discovery personality Captain Paul Watson, who described his experience with finners in a Facebook post:

Nothing Changes at Cocos Island.The Stench of Dead Sharks Lingers Over Costa RicaAlthough this article (below) in the...

Posted by Captain Paul Watson on Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Learn more about wildlife on Cocos Island:

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Humpbacks of Cocos Island

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