Getting notice for a rare blue whale area as an EBSA on road to be an MPA

Full Solution
Blue whale
Lucy Molleson (WDC)

Endangered blue whales from the Eastern Tropical Pacific breed and feed in an offshore, highly productive oceanic feature called the Costa Rica Dome. Compiling data on the blue whales' use of the area and the overall productivity was the first step, followed by submitting a case study for protection of the area to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), publicising the value of the area, gaining local support, and working with MarViva and other NGOs on regional agreements..

Dernière modification 05 Jul 2019
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Challenges addressed
Loss of Biodiversity
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Gaining recognition for rare breeding & feeding habitat of endangered offshore blue whales Endangered blue whales from the productive Eastern Tropical Pacific are in need of habitat protection In a productive area of the ocean with heavy fishing, ship traffic with noise and danger of ship strike. Much of the evidence for blue whale presence is unpublished so this had to be gathered to make a submission to CBD and to argue the case for an EBSA (ecologically or biologically significant area).
Scale of implementation
Deep sea
Genetic diversity
Costa Rica
East and South Africa
Central America
Summary of the process
It has been a step by step process to obtain the best science to build the case, then to gain regional support to put the idea effectively into the CBD as a key stepping stone toward a fully protected MPA.
Building Blocks
Submitting idea for a protected area to the CBD
Working with other species groups, sea turtles, sharks, seabirds; interviewing experts on the Dome and oceanography of the region; converting raw data on blue whales and other species into usable maps
Enabling factors
We presented the work at European Cetacean Society and other conferences to gain feedback and support. We submitted it formally as a case study for a propose ecologically or biologically significant area (EBSA) to the CBD in 2009.
Lesson learned
Once researchers understand the importance of their data, they are happier to share it, even if it is raw or unpublished data.
Working with regional NGO to get idea accepted as an EBSA
Meeting MarViva staff and president at meetings and making a plan to work together. Agreeing to send someone to the regional EBSA workshop. Helping to prepare the submission to the workshop. Gaining acceptance for the area proposed as an EBSA.
Enabling factors
Conferences and meetings that would give us a chance to plan the action on a more personable basis, at least initially; then ease and cost of using skype and meeting software; being able to contribute to getting a grant for the work at the local level.
Lesson learned
Reach out and gain support and partners at local levels even if you are working on an international initiative. Work hard to make it happen.
Gaining buy-in from Costa Rica government & other countries
This building block covers meeting with local and regional officials to discuss adoption of the proposal and how to go forward toward an MPA. It is important to ensure the buy-in of other countries because the marine boundaries overlap Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as sometimes other countries as the CR Dome is moving from year to year. Central American countries share these waters for transport, fishing, etc. Strategy is one on one and then group meetings.
Enabling factors
Having a local and regional NGO, MarViva, with connections to government lead the work, as well as careful coordination with the Latin American office of Whale and Dolphin Conservation which has numerous political contacts in the region.
Lesson learned
Reach out and gain support and partners at local levels even if you are working on an international initiative. Work hard to make it happen.
Working toward a marine protected area (MPA)
This is the essential building block toward creating an effective MPA at the Costa Rica Dome. It is still In process. The steps already taken are stimulating, through conferences and meetings, discussion at national, regional and international levels. This process was started by presenting the idea with a case study in Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises (Hoyt, 2011) and an associated campaign, and, crucially, working closely with the Central American (Costa Rica based) NGO MarViva.
Enabling factors
: In process; obtaining further funds to facilitate meetings and lobbying
Lesson learned
Need ABNJ legal structure for high seas MPAs

1) the public and government officials now know about rare blue whale habitat and the need for protection; 2) international scientific recognition through the CBD provides network links to MPAs with blue whales in Mexico & California; 3) there is momentum now for MPA protection in the region and through ABNJ work.

blue whales, as well as humpback whales, and various tropical dolphins, and the coastal communities of Costa Rica and Central America.
When I (Erich Hoyt) heard about the endangered blue whales turning up regularly in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, especially in an area called the Costa Rica Dome, I began to do research to find out what data was available both in terms of the blue whales, and the overall productivity of the area. I found out that the Costa Rica Dome is defined as a shoaling of the generally strong, shallow thermocline with cold nutrient-rich upwellings (Fiedler, 2002). It is also the only known tropical feeding and breeding area for blue whales. The proposed Costa Rica Dome MPA straddles the waters of the high seas as well as (mainly) Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I learned that the IUCN along with Sylvia Earle had identified the area as a special place and put it in a brochure in 2008 that was circulated among conservation professionals. I felt it was essential to get more recognition for the area especially in terms of the blue whale story so I talked to researchers, gained permission to use their data, worked with mapmakers and submitted a case study in 2009 to the CBD as a potential EBSA. I knew we would have to secure local support so at international meetings I talked with various conservation groups and scientists from the region, finally meeting Jorge Jimenez, president of MarViva, based in Costa Rica, in 2009. We agreed to work together, and built a wider coalition with IUCN, the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas and others, and helped to raise funds for MarViva to get this on the agenda of a CBD EBSA workshop. The workshop in 2012 formally recommended the EBSA, later approved through the CBD COP, though with changed boundaries, and that has now set the stage for MPA proposals and formal protection.
Connexion avec les contributeurs
Other contributors
Erich Hoyt
IUCN SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force
Jorge Jimenez
MarViva —
Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara
Tethys Research Institute
Miguel Iñíguez
Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC —