(July 7, 2015 – San José, Costa Rica) – During a recent scientific expedition to Cocos Island National Park (May 4 – 15, 2015), small two and three passenger submarines known as submersibles were used to deploy acoustic listening stations at 180 m (590 ft) depth, an inflatable boat was used to catch sharks and implant acoustic tracking tags, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones) were used to patrol from above in search of marine wildlife below. The expedition was directed by Randall Arauz, Central American Director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), in collaboration with Costa Rica’s National System of Protected Areas (SINAC) and the Cocos Island Marine Conservation Area (ACMIC), and with the companies Alucia Productions II, Precision Integrated and Aeroval.
This cutting-edge research and conservation initiative was supported by the Dalio Ocean Initiative (DOI), a foundation committed to protecting ocean health and improving our stewardship of the marine world. In support of these pioneering efforts, the DOI offered TIRN the use of it’s research vessel, the Umbra, a state of the art ocean research vessel. A sister ship, the Alucia, was also deployed to support manned submersible research efforts. Alucia Production II, a world class production company dedicated to ocean-based media, provided all topside and underwater media production to document these unprecedented efforts.
“Science and state-of-the-art technology came together to not only explore the ocean frontier, but to also collaborate on ways to protect the endangered marine wildlife that visits this biodiversity-rich Island” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of TIRN. “It was an incredible experience to have a fleet of aerial drones, underwater subs, and surface boats all working together.”
Two submersibles explored the underwater summits of “Las Gemelas,” a formation of seamounts located about 40 miles southwest of Cocos Island. Here the subs deployed two acoustic receivers, or listening stations that will be used to monitor and track marine wildlife. Acoustic telemetry has been used to track over 100 sharks and sea turtles in Cocos Island since 2005, and the addition of these two listening stations will increase knowledge on the migratory movements and patterns of these animals between Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica , and the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.
Inflatable boats were used to catch sharks in the waters surrounding Cocos Island. Sharks were immobilized and brought next to the inflatable by a team of trained biologists, where they were then turned belly up and implanted with acoustic tags through a minor surgical procedure. Over 10 sharks were tagged including thresher, black tip, and silver tip sharks. One hammerhead shark was tagged underwater while scuba diving.
UAVs or drones were deployed to evaluate their effectiveness to detect marine megafauna in the waters of Cocos Island National Park, such as whale sharks, humpback whales, pilot whales, and manta rays. The potential to use of UAVs to assist in the surveillance of the fisheries-no-take area was also tested (12 miles around the Island is protected as a Marine National Park). “We are excited about the success of this first testing of Aerovel’s Flexrotor UAV”, said Charissa Moen of Precision Integrated. “The concept has been proven and the capabilities of the aircraft demonstrated, and we look forward to ongoing work with Randall and Turtle Island Restoration Network to assist in making the precious resources of Costa Rica long lasting”.
“It isn’t very often that we get to go down 180 meters, or have a 900 m bird’s eye view of the waters surrounding Cocos Island,” said an excited Randall Arauz. “We are currently working with the authorities and our partners to strengthen this collaboration and hopefully not only increase our knowledge on the movements of highly migratory sharks and turtles, but also for this information to permeate public policy and improve conservation for these animals on the ground…and in the water”.
“All collaborations add up to the efforts to conserve the rich treasures in the waters of Cocos Island, especially when cutting-edge technology is available, which allows us to discover our needs to protect and surveil the island’s rich biodiversity”, indicated Mr. Julio Jurado, Executive Director of SINAC.
Turtle Island Restoration Network works to mobilize people and communities around the world to protect marine wildlife, the oceans and the inland waterways that sustain them. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. http://www.seaturtles.org
The National Conservation Area System (SINAC) is a decentralized branch of the Ministry of Environment (MINAE), charged with the management and conservation of biodiversity, through an array of initiatives that seek to incorporate civil society and other State institutions, as well as Non Government Organizations, in the conservation and sustainable development programs that it executes, with the goal that these become aware of their responsibility to conserve the environment, by participating in initiatives that are considered beneficial to the Conservation Areas. http://www.sinac.go.cr
The Cocos Island Marine Conservation Area (ACMIC) is one of the 11 Conservation Areas that conform the SINAC. Its mission is to conserve the ecosystems within ACMIC, through the adequate management of its natural resources and to constantly increase knowledge pertaining to the area and its surroundings. http://www.isladelcoco.go.cr.
Precision Integrated is dedicated to providing unparalleled service and support to our customers and the broader unmanned systems industry. We focus our efforts in direct support of unmanned programs for commercial interests, wildlife and environmental preservation bodies, humanitarian and disaster relief/emergency response organizations, and USG national defense, intelligence, and Homeland Security entities (www.flyprecision.com).
Alucia Productions II is a leading film production company that leverages its unique access to the MV Alucia to capture and illuminate the stunning images of ocean life out on the high seas. Our film and media expertise and technological capabilities offer a rare and exciting opportunity to create superlative scientific and oceanic documentaries. (http://www.aluciaproductions.com)
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Cell: (415) 488-7711
Central American Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
(506) 8344 3711