The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is home to a diverse and valuable (ecologically and economically) array of oceanic predators including billfishes (sailfish, marlins, etc), tunas, sharks, and sea turtles. Sustaining commercial and recreational fisheries in this region is challenging because of limited data, the wide variety of competing interests, and perhaps an increasing influence from ocean climate variation. In addition, marine animals live in a highly dynamic habitat, and our management strategies need to reflect that. In order to conserve protected species and maintain fisheries, we need to consider a more comprehensive approach to management that specifically considers the complex spatial dynamics of species distributions and how those overlap with human activities. We are discovering globally that Dynamic Ocean Management and Mobile Marine Protected Areas, may allow conservation and fishing objectives to be achieved at the same time, but only if we fully understand the spatial dynamics of key species.
The primary objective of this research program is to conduct the science necessary to set the stage for applying a novel approach to the management of pelagic predators, known as Dynamic Ocean Management. This approach combines animal movement data collected by satellite tags, with environmental data which is modeled or collected by satellites, to model the movements and seasonal distributions of key recreational fish species (in our case, sailfish and blue marlin). Understanding the environmental conditions driving the movements of these animals will allow us to create dynamic predictions, like a weather forecast, of where these marine animals are likely to be, or not be, throughout the year. This work potentially allows managers to reduce conflicts among fishery sectors targeting different species and to reduce bycatch of non-target and protected species.
The ability to forecast the movement of pelagic species for Dynamic Ocean Management or Mobile Marine Protected Areas has been proven scientifically (https://news.stanford.edu/2018/05/30/new-tool-improves-fishing-efficiency-sustainability/), but to date has not been adopted widely in fisheries management. This research program aims to set the stage for this cutting-edge approach to fisheries management in Costa Rica in order to protect both the diversity of life and fishing interests found along its Pacific coast.