Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) travels more than 1,200 km from Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica’s South Pacific, to the iconic Darwin Arch in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

The shark named “Banco” was tagged with an internal acoustic transmitter on the night of August 21 in the outer zone of Golfo Dulce, when he was around 2 years old and just over 1 m long.

After almost 3 years of not having news of his movements, Banco was detected between March 21 and April 4, 2021, by an acoustic receiver deployed more than 1000 km away, at Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. This is the first connection between a coastal nursery area and an oceanic critical habitat. It was possible thanks to an international collaborative research effort between Costa Rican researchers from Misión Tiburon (www.misiontiburon.org) and Ecuadorians from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Galapagos Science Center (https://http://www.galapagosscience.org), both members of the regional Migramar network (https://migramar.org).

The scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini, is a migratory species from tropical and subtropical waters. The pups spend their early life stage in nursery areas, generally located in highly productive coastal areas such as mangroves and river mouths; when they reach sexual maturity, they migrate to the open ocean, and form large aggregations at the oceanic islands of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, namely, Isla del Coco (Costa Rica), Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Isla Malpelo (Colombia). Its populations have declined globally, and one of the most threatened populations is in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, mainly due to overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution. As a consequence of steep population declines of hammerhead sharks, in 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated its red list classification to Critically Endangered. Due to its migratory nature, the study of the hammerhead shark population requires collaborative efforts among researchers from across the region.

 

Banco, the hammerhead shark tagged in 2017 in Costa Rica

The Migramar network is made up of scientists from different countries of the Eastern Pacific with the purpose of sharing methodologies and technical information in order to achieve results of greater impact for the conservation of threatened marine species. “This finding highlights the importance of joining international efforts to identify, protect and connect nursery areas in coastal areas, where the interaction between hammerhead shark and human activities is even greater than in oceanic areas. In this context, Ecuador has already acted on the matter, declaring two new marine protected areas, one in the coastal zone and the other in oceanic waters. Although in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica, there are specific protection measures for the scalloped hammerhead shark, they must be complemented with stronger conservation actions. The creation of new marine protected areas in coastal zones is urgent, we hope that Costa Rica will follow the example of Ecuador”, commented Ilena Zanella, researcher at Misión Tiburón. “This is yet another example of connectivity of endangered marine species between Ecuador and Costa Rica,” explained Dr. Alex Hearn, Professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. “At least six species of sharks and two species of marine turtles migrate between the two countries, where they are susceptible to the nets and hooks of our fishing fleets. This is why we must congratulate Ecuador on the recent announcement to create a new marine reserve, which will help protect their migratory routes. Costa Rica must step up urgently and do the same.”

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!