Fishes at Isla del Coco National Park, Costa Rica, were surveyed as part of a larger scientific expedition to the area in September 2009. The average total biomass of nearshore fishes was 7.8 tonnes per ha, among the largest observed in the tropics, with apex predators such as sharks, jacks, and groupers accounting for nearly 40% of the total biomass. The abundance of reef and pelagic sharks, particularly large aggregations of threatened species such as the scalloped hammerhead shark (up to 42 hammerheads ha-1) and large schools of jacks and snappers show the capacity for high biomass in unfished ecosystems in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. However, the abundance of hammerhead and reef whitetip sharks appears to have been declining since the late 1990s, and likely causes may include increasing fishing pressure on sharks in the region and illegal fishing inside the Park. One Galapagos shark tagged on September 20, 2009 in the Isla del Coco National Park moved 255km southeast towards Malpelo Island in Colombia, when it stopped transmitting. These results contribute to the evidence that sharks conduct large-scale movements between marine protected areas (Isla del Coco, Malpelo, Galápagos) in the Eastern tropical Pacific and emphasize the need for regional-scale management. More than half of the species and 90% of the individuals observed were endemic to the tropical eastern Pacific. These high biomass and endemicity values highlight the uniqueness of the fish assemblage at Isla del Coco and its importance as a global biodiversity hotspot.
Additional publication details
The shallow-water fish assemblage of Isla del Coco National Park, Costa Rica: structure and patterns in an isolated, predator-dominated ecosystem