Expedition Documents Importance of “Swimway” between Galapagos and Cocos Islands

From April 2 through 13, 2018, a team of scientists from PACIFICO funded in part by the Shark Conservation Fund and utilizing the Waitt Foundation’s ship the “Plan B,” traveled over two thousand kilometers through the marine corridor between the Galapagos and Cocos National Parks.  The scientists visited nine iconic submarine mountains along the Cocos Ridge, including Darwin Island, Cocos Island, and the Paramount, Medina and West Cocos Seamounts. Using pelagic baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS), they collected a total of 440 hours of footage. 

The overall goal of the research was to generate the key data to establish a baseline and map of the swimway. The specific objectives were to quantify the distribution, abundance and diversity of predators along the Galapagos – Coco Swimway using floating BRUVs and to investigate the effect of environmental drivers (temperature, depth and presence of seamounts) on predator species distribution and abundance patterns. The preliminary results documented in the video, show for the first time the use of these sea mounts along the Cocos Ridge by a range of key species such as hammerhead, silky and thresher sharks, rays, marlin, mahi-mahi, dolphins, and 3 species of marine turtles.  You can view video highlights here.

This expedition was part of a larger effort to reduce the mortality of sharks and other migratory species by creating the Galapagos-Cocos Transboundary Swimway, the first one in the Eastern Pacific, and one of the first in the world. The Swimway will follow the Cocos Ridge, the underwater mountain range that links the Galapagos and Cocos marine protected areas and cover an approximately 46,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.  The Shark Conservation Fund is supporting PACIFICO Foundation, a project of Siempre Costa Rica, to:

  1. Present to the Ministers of Environment of Ecuador and Costa Rica a proposal for the designation of the Galapagos-Cocos Swimway with the scientific data, legal framework, policy agenda, financial sustainability plan and political endorsement plan to establish it.
  2. Submit legal proposals to the Governments of Ecuador and Costa Rica to advance the adoption of stronger regulations to control activities in key marine migratory routes based on international conventions.

The swimway project was recently the subject of a National Public Radio story.