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Cocos Island National Park

Costa Rica
Factors affecting the property in 2002*
  • Financial resources
  • Illegal activities
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2002
Requests approved: 3 (from 2000-2001)
Total amount approved : 44,965 USD
Missions to the property until 2002**
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2002

Main issues:

Illegal fishing

New information

The Secretariat received information about significantly increased illegal fishing within the Cocos Island Marine Reserve that took place in October 2001. In answer to the Secretariat’s inquiry, the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica informed that the situation was a result of a number of unpredictable factors:

  1. A cold marine current came unusually close to the Island, bringing with it a huge number of tuna fish.  This attracted a large number of fishing vessels to move close to the island to capture the tuna;
  2. Abnormally severe weather conditions forced many of the fishing vessels to look for a refuge at the island;
  3. The same severe marine conditions made it impossible for the patrol boat of the Island to operate in the Marine Reserve to control this situation.  This was aggravated by the fact that a number of technical problems were also detected on this patrol boat.

The report from the State Party notes that in order to control this situation the Ministry of the Environment and Energy established a close liaison with the National Coast Guard Service (NCGS), obtaining its support to launch three patrolling trips around the Island during November 2001.  This was essential to finally control the situation created by too many boats moving into the Marine Reserve.

The report mentions that as a positive outcome of this unexpected situation, the Ministry of the Environment, through the Executive Decree NO. 29834, extended the boundaries of the Marine Reserve from 8.2 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles around the Island.  Also, cooperation with the National Coast Guard Service has been enhanced and the number of patrolling activities around the Island by NCGS boats has increased substantially.

Further, the report notes that the Ministry of the Environment is working with the national legal authorities to submit to the National Court 14 of the 46 cases of illegal fishing reported in the last 4 years, and the Ministry and the NCGS are discussing the possibility of 6 new NCGS officers working permanently at Cocos Island.

A letter received from the State Party on 13 February 2002 informed that the Court in Puntarenas imposed a US$300,000 fine against the owners of the pirate vessel San José I, arrested 22 August 2001 by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Ocean Warrior while illegally fishing in the site.  The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is currently preparing a ship for a return to Cocos Island. The society is seeking donations of two small fast boats, a radar system and electrical generators to give to the Cocos Island National Park Ranger station.

Action Required

The Bureau commends the State Party on its efforts to achieve protection of the site with limited resources, and the forming of a strategic partnership with the National Coast Guard Service and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It notes that the recent prosecution of the Ecuadorian vessel underlines the commitment of the State Party and sets a precedent for further prosecutions. The Bureau recognises the continuing financial constraints preventing the full enforcement of the existing laws and regulations and the courage and dedication of those rangers who have been tackling the poaching threat for years. The Bureau congratulates the State Party on the extension of the Marine Park boundaries to 12 nautical miles, and, in light of the desire of the State Party to extend the boundaries of the World Heritage site to be commensurate with these new boundaries, requests that a proposal be submitted in due course, including a map of the extension. The Bureau fully supports the efforts by The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, particularly in seeking donations of fast boats, a radar system and other equipment to give to the Cocos Island National Park Ranger station. If necessary, the State Party may wish to consider requesting additional assistance from the World Heritage Fund.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2002
26 COM 21B.5
Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Notes the state of conservation report and the decision by the Bureau contained in document WHC-02/CONF.202/2, paragraphs XII. 44-46, and

2. Decides to review the proposed extension of the property under item 23 Nominations [10].

[10] See decision 26 COM 23.4.

26 COM 23.4
Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica)
The World Heritage Committee,

Approves the extension of the marine zone of Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica on the basis of the existing natural criteria (ii) and (iv).

26 BUR XII.44-46
Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica)

XII.44    The Bureau was informed that after the illegal fishing incident in October 2001 the State Party has undertaken significant actions to increase the protection of the Marine Reserve. These actions include establishing co-operation with the National Coast Guard Service (NCGS) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for patrolling the marine area, extension of the marine limits up to 12 nautical miles and prosecution of illegal fishing boat owners.

XII.45    IUCN congratulated the State Party on the actions taken to protect the site and on the intentions of the State Party to also expand the boundaries of the World Heritage site to match the new marine limits of 12 nautical miles. He informed the Bureau of the proposal for the creation of “Pacific Biological Corridor” between Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia and Panamá. The aim of the proposal is to improve the protection of existing protected areas within the Corridor, including two World Heritage sites, namely Cocos Island and Galapagos Marine Reserve, as well as to help prevent marine transportation related accidents and illegal fishing within the region. The proposal is a joint effort between the above-mentioned State Parties, IUCN, Conservation International and UNEP and it is currently being prepared for GEF funding.

XII.46    The Bureau commended the State Party on its efforts to achieve protection of the site with limited resources, and the forming of a strategic partnership with the National Coast Guard Service and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It noted that the recent prosecution of the Ecuadorian vessel underlined the commitment of the State Party and sets a precedent for further prosecutions. The Bureau recognised the continuing financial constraints preventing the full enforcement of the present laws and regulations and the courage and dedication of those rangers who have been tackling the poaching threat for years. The Bureau congratulated the State Party on the extension of the Marine Park boundaries to 12 nautical miles, and, in light of the desire of the State Party to extend the boundaries of the World Heritage site to be commensurate with these new boundaries, requested that a proposal be submitted in due course, including a map of the extension. The Bureau fully supported the efforts by The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, particularly in seeking donations of fast boats, a radar system and other equipment to give to the Cocos Island National Park Ranger Station. If necessary, the State Party may wish to consider requesting additional assistance from the World Heritage Fund.

The Committee is requested to note the decision by the Bureau (please refer to document WHC-02/CONF.202/2, paragraphs XII. 44-46)

Report year: 2002
Costa Rica
Date of Inscription: 1997
Category: Natural
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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