Mayella’s Costa Rican Internship

Mayella’s Costa Rican Internship

My Time at Marine Conservation Costa Rica

As a Sustainable Tourism and Business Intern

One of our recent interns, Mayella, joined us for 6 weeks, assisting with our Sustainable Tourism and Business program. Hear from her about her experience. 

Over the past six weeks, I have been undergoing a Sustainable Tourism and Business Internship with Marine Conservation Costa Rica (MCCR) in Quepos, Costa Rica. I have learnt so much throughout my time here and made unforgettable memories with some incredible people. Coming from Australia, I have always been passionate about protecting our oceans, but working with MCCR has truly given me a new perspective on the importance of our reefs and marine ecosystems.

Having the opportunity to witness firsthand all that goes into marine conservation made me realise just how important the work that MCCR is doing is. From hands-on coral restoration projects to educational outreach aimed at divers, schools, and the broader public, there are so many facets of the business, all equally important.

Throughout my time here, I have contributed to various projects and initiatives, including creating social media content, assisting with coral fragmentation, and developing educational materials. This experience has provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of running a business and the necessity of achieving sustainable tourism practices. 

One project that I particularly enjoyed was developing an educational video alongside Nashira, explaining the process of coral restoration. This project provided me with so many new skills such as video editing, colour grading, and researching. The transferable skills and knowledge that I have collected throughout my internship will be extremely valuable in my future career.

In my freetime!

Staying in a homestay during my internship was one of my favourite aspects of the program as I was able to immerse myself in the culture and language of Costa Rica. The family was so welcoming, giving me the opportunity to improve my Spanish and try some delicious Costa Rican food. 

The sense of community within the program was also amazing, whether it was going to the release turtles at sunset or to the bar for a couple of drinks, everyone was always up to hang out together and become great friends. 

Tourism has the power to foster peace, with people from all across the world coming together to appreciate the same views, nature, and experiences. The industry depends on the survival of our environments- without a thriving, beautiful landscape, people will stop coming. Protecting and conserving the world’s natural assets is imperative in sustaining the tourism industry. It is so important that everyone involved in tourism- the tourists, local communities, organisations, governments- take the responsibility to create a responsible, sustainable tourism industry.

The ocean is such a vital ecosystem for the world. Without organisations like Marine Conservation Costa Rica, we have no chance of sustaining a holistic tourism industry. Without coral reefs, we have nothing.

By Mayella Bignell 

Want to get involved ?

With all of the projects we work hard on throughout the year, we are always looking for help. You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

Apply Now

Apply Now

Sustainable Fishing: Balancing Livelihoods and Conservation

Sustainable Fishing: Balancing Livelihoods and Conservation

Sustainable Fishing:

Balancing Livelihoods and Marine Conservation in Costa Rica 

What is Sustainable Fishing?

Sustainable fishing is the practice of harvesting fish in a manner that maintains the long-term vitality of fish populations and marine ecosystems. This holistic approach safeguards against overexploitation, ensuring the marine environment is not damaged, and that the livelihoods of those reliant on the ocean such as fishermen and coastal communities are supported for generations to come. 

Decades of unregulated overfishing have detrimentally impacted marine biodiversity and ecosystems, necessitating a shift towards more mindful fishing practices. 

To address these impacts, scientists assess the health of fish stocks, delving into factors such as population size, spawning patterns, predation, and survival rates to maturity. Through collecting this information, fisheries can implement harvest control rules, which require catches to be reduced if the species’ population declines. By integrating scientific insights and adopting adaptive management strategies, sustainable fisheries can foster a harmonious coexistence between human activities and the marine environment, ensuring its vitality for future generations.

Indigenous cultures worldwide have practised sustainable fishing for thousands of years, utilizing techniques such as spearfishing, hook-and-line methods, and cast nets. These methods minimize bycatch, which is the accidental catch of a different species. They also set aside vulnerable areas, such as coral reefs, and have seasonal restrictions on certain species to allow replenishment of fish stocks. By observing these Indigenous practices, fisheries can learn and adapt their methods to mitigate their environmental impact.

“We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depend on it. Because they do.”

Sylvia Earle

Why is it so Important?

Sustainable fishing is imperative in protecting ocean biodiversity and maintaining a healthy and resilient ocean. With fishers extracting over 77 billion kilograms (170 billion pounds) of sea life from the oceans annually, there are escalating concerns that this exploitation may result in a global collapse of fisheries. Climate change is already having detrimental impacts on our oceans and the health of fish stocks, making the need for sustainable fishing more important than ever.

Unsustainable practices such as overfishing not only deplete targeted fish populations, but also lead to the unintended capture of non-targeted species such as turtles, birds, and other marine life. As much as 40% of fisheries’ captures worldwide are bycatch, and an estimated 650,000 whales, dolphins, and seals are killed annually by fishing nets. Unselective and destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling and drift net fishing are also destroying delicate marine habitats, such as coral reefs, seagrass and seabed communities. 

With all of these fishing practices, over 640,000 tons of plastic waste is generated and left to pollute the ocean. This includes nets, lines and traps that are continuously trapping and killing marine life.

Beyond environmental concerns, sustainable fishing plays a pivotal role in upholding global food security, particularly in regions where seafood serves as a vital source of protein and essential nutrients. By conserving fish populations, sustainable fishing mitigates the need for increased reliance on land-based proteins, thus averting further deforestation and environmental degradation.

Furthermore, sustainable fishing practices provide critical support and protection for countless communities and organizations that depend on fishing and seafood-related activities for their livelihoods. By embracing sustainable fishing methods, we can ensure the continued viability of these industries while safeguarding the health and integrity of our oceans for generations to come.

113 million people globally are employed by fisheries

97% of employment from fisheries are in developing countries

How Do We Achieve Sustainable Fishing?

Government Cooperation

Comprehensive government cooperation, from local communities to nations across the world, is crucial in ensuring responsible fishing practices. There are numerous organizations, such as the National Platform for Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics here in Costa Rica, which provide a platform for various stakeholders to discuss challenges they may face related to sustainable fishing. Establishing protected marine reserves can assist in conserving delicate marine ecosystems such as reefs and mangroves, allowing fish populations to regenerate and recover.

Fishery Management

Effective fishery management is essential in achieving sustainable fishing practices. Steps can be taken such as monitoring and retrieving lost gear as well as using biodegradable panels or locks on gear such as crab pots, preventing fishing gear from being discarded or lost in the ocean and allowing species to escape. 

Consumers

As consumers, we can choose seafood that has been harvested and produced by well-managed, sustainable fisheries. To do this, we must educate ourselves on the origin and capture techniques used by fisheries. Resources such as Seafood Watch can also assist us in making informed decisions. In Costa Rica, look out for the ‘Pura Vida’ label on seafood products as an assurance of sustainability.

From research conducted by MOTT Community College, 60% of tourists in Quepos, Costa Rica do not know what sustainable seafood is!

Making mindful species about the types of fish we consume is also key. Below are some species to avoid, as well as alternative options. This helps reduce pressure on fragile species and contributes to the overall sustainability of fisheries.

Best Choice

Mahi-Mahi/Dorado: Reproduces quickly

Snapper: Reproduces quickly and grows fast

 

Alternative Options

Yellowfin Tuna: Large in size

Common & Black Snook: Adaptable

Wahoo: High reproductive rate and fast growth rate

Avoid

Octopus: Ethically questionable due to their intelligence

Lobster: Overfished due to consumer demand

Tilapia: Questionable farming methods using chemicals

Swordfish: High levels of mercury

Marlin: Often caught by bycatch

Shark: Unsustainably fished

 

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming 9 students from Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, who came to help us in our progress towards protecting our oceans, as they play an important role in our way of life. Months before joining us here in Quepos, they had begun important research into the fishing industry and in particular, the sustainability of certain fish in Costa Rica. Once here, over a week, the students learnt about Marine Conservation, its importance, sustainable fishing practices, and how we have exploited it over decades. They then went and conducted primary research speaking to restaurants, tourists and fishermen in the local area to find out more about the fishing industry and its sustainability.

As a final message from us at Marine Conservation Costa Rica, we’d like to thank Aizya S, Alexis F, Angelique T, Dante W, Grant M, Joshua M, Mahmuda H, Marielle J, Shelby N and Professor Devone for joining us to educate all of us on how we can make more informed decisions about what we eat!

By Aizya S, Alexis F, Angelique T, Dante W, Grant M, Joshua M, Mahmuda H, Marielle J, Shelby N, Professor Devone from MOTT Community College and Mayella Bignell 

Want to get involved ?

With all of the projects we work hard on throughout the year, we are always looking for help. You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

Apply Now

Guardians of the Sea: Marine Conservation Internships

Guardians of the Sea: Marine Conservation Internships

Guardians of the Sea:

How Marine Conservation Interns Make a Difference

Why is Marine Conservation so Important?

Our reefs are extremely vulnerable ecosystems that are essential to Earth’s survival. 

The ocean regulates our climate by acting as the world’s largest carbon sink and providing half of our oxygen. It has the ability to combat the negative effects of climate change by absorbing over 90% of the excess heat in the atmosphere, assisting in the regulation of land temperatures.

The ocean supplies a large percentage of our animal protein, especially in less developed countries that rely heavily on seafood as a source of food.

3 billion people depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, from fisheries to tourism, the ocean contributes significantly to many industries and fuels the economy with over $3 trillion annually.

Climate action depends on a healthy ocean, which requires urgent action.

Through impactful marine education and proactive initiatives, you can help us protect and nurture Costa Rica’s marine biodiversity while revitalizing crucial ecosystems.

Programs

Embark on an unforgettable experience with Marine Conservation Costa Rica, where you can dive into the heart of ocean conservation and make a real difference! Whether you’re a seasoned diver, looking to learn, or are passionate about marine life, our range of internships and volunteering programs offer extraordinary opportunities to explore and protect the underwater world like never before. Our array of programs accommodates various timeframes, offering flexibility to suit your schedule.

Coral Restoration Internship:

Join us on an unforgettable adventure where you’ll dive into the depths of coral restoration. With your PADI open water certification in hand, you’ll spend 2 weeks to 1 month alongside our dedicated MCCR team. Don’t worry if you don’t have your open water certification, you can easily complete this with us once you arrive! You will be immersed into our coral restoration project, where you’ll play an active role in maintaining coral nurseries and gathering crucial data on their health. Get ready to make a splash and be part of something truly remarkable!

Diving Volunteer Program:

For those who are looking for something a little less intense, our diving volunteer program offers a great opportunity to dive and get involved with community education projects, allowing you to make a difference both underwater and on land. Start your month-long journey with the PADI Coral Restoration Specialty course, and then dive into nursery maintenance and reef research alongside our passionate team. But that’s not all – you’ll also have the chance to get involved in community education projects or simply soak up the sun and explore the stunning beauty of Costa Rica’s coastline. Get ready for an adventure like no other!

Eco Divemaster Program:

Dreaming of turning your passion for diving into a meaningful career? Look no further! Combine your love for the ocean with professional dive training as you embark on an exciting volunteering experience with us. Whether you choose to become a PADI Divemaster or Instructor, you’ll gain valuable skills while making a positive impact on marine conservation. 

Non-Diving Internship:

At Marine Conservation Costa Rica, we’re not just about diving – we’re about making waves in marine conservation. Join us in our mission to protect and preserve our precious oceans. Learn more about sustainable tourism and business with hands-on experience in our operations. 

What Would I Be Doing?

Diving interns at MCCR don’t just dive into the ocean – they dive into adventure! 

From the moment they join us, interns become integral members of our team, greeting clients, helping organize equipment, loading boats, and then it’s time to dive in! From fun recreational dives to hands-on research activities including coral restoration, naturalism and harvesting and outplanting coral, interns get to experience it all. They master essential skills such as search and recovery, navigation, and more while expanding their knowledge through fish identification and honing their buoyancy control.  But it’s not all deep dives and research – interns also assist in leading snorkelling tours and exciting coral fragmentation projects. With every dive, interns play a vital role in protecting our oceans and marine life. 

Non-diving interns at MCCR are crucial to shaping the future of marine conservation. From collaborating on marketing initiatives to spreading awareness about marine conservation in local schools, interns play a vital role in educating and inspiring others. They’re involved in creating engaging educational resources and leading programs for kids that foster a deeper understanding of our oceans. Even without diving, interns have the chance to learn about critical processes like coral restoration and fragmentation, gaining valuable insights into marine ecosystem preservation. But the best part? Interns are encouraged to unleash their creativity and explore their specific skills and interests, making each experience uniquely rewarding. 

Join us and become a driving force in protecting our oceans for generations to come!

What Are We Currently Working On?

Interns at MCCR lead impactful projects that showcase our dedication to marine conservation. 

One of these projects is the creation of an impact report, highlighting our achievements and future goals towards protecting and restoring our oceans.

Additionally, our coral fragmentation and outplanting efforts are a company-wide initiative, with every member playing a meaningful role in restoring our reefs in Costa Rica. From harvesting to fragmenting to outplanting, every intern is involved in some way.

To further engage the community, we’ve constructed a coral tank to showcase the restoration process and raise awareness about our important work. With a continuous flow of new and ongoing projects, interns always have opportunities to contribute to our cause and make a difference. 

At MCCR, community involvement is at the heart of what we do. Whether it’s organizing beach clean-ups or participating in turtle releases, there’s always an opportunity to make a positive impact. We believe in actively contributing to the well-being of our community and the conservation of our natural environment. 

By Mayella Bignell

Want to get involved ?

With all of the projects we work hard on throughout the year, we are always looking for help. You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

Apply Now

5 Funtastic Coral facts

5 Funtastic Coral facts

The Wonders of Coral Reefs: Unveiling 5 Fascinating Facts

Coral reefs, often considered the vibrant metropolises of the ocean, are teeming with life and captivating beauty. Beyond their picturesque appearance lies a world of fascinating facts that make these underwater ecosystems truly exceptional. In this article, we will delve into five funtastic facts about coral reefs, shedding light on their crucial roles, incredible biodiversity, and the captivating dynamics of these marine wonderlands.

Coral in Costa rica

Fact 1: Coral Reefs - Not Just Pretty Faces

Contrary to popular belief, coral reefs are not static structures; they are dynamic, living organisms. Unlike plants, these underwater wonders don’t whip up their own meals through photosynthesis. Instead, they are composed of colonies of tiny organisms known as polyps. These polyps, akin to microscopic powerhouses, collaborate to build the intricate structures that we recognize as coral reefs.

Imagine a bustling neighborhood, where a quarter of all marine species convene for the ultimate underwater block party. Coral reefs serve as the epicenter of this marine fiesta, providing a habitat for an astonishing array of fish, invertebrates, and other marine creatures. Every nook and cranny of the reef becomes a hotspot for oceanic diversity, creating an underwater realm that rivals any terrestrial ecosystem in its complexity and interdependence.

Fact 2: Aquatic Custodians of Cleanliness

Beyond their role as marine meeting grounds, coral reefs play a crucial role as nature’s underwater janitors. These aquatic custodians filter and purify their watery homes with an efficiency that surpasses any oceanic mop and bucket. Through a process known as nutrient cycling, coral reefs remove excess nutrients from the water, preventing algal overgrowth and maintaining a delicate balance in the ecosystem.

Picture the reefs as diligent cleaners, tirelessly working to ensure the health and vitality of their surroundings. As they filter the water, coral reefs contribute to maintaining the pristine conditions that support the incredible biodiversity thriving within their structures. Let’s take a moment to applaud these unsung heroes of the ocean – the coral reefs, the true custodians of cleanliness beneath the waves.

Pavona gigantea - Corals of Costa Rica

Fact 3: Sun-Seeking Beach Bums of the Sea

Coral reefs, much like sunbathers on a tropical beach, require sunlight to grow and thrive. These marine ecosystems depend on sunlight for a process called photosynthesis, which takes place within the symbiotic relationship between the coral polyps and microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. The coral provides a safe haven for the algae, and in return, the algae supply the coral with essential nutrients.

However, just like humans, coral reefs can suffer from too much heat. Excessive heat, often caused by rising sea temperatures due to climate change, can lead to a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. This is analogous to the ocean’s version of a sunburn, where the coral expels the algae, resulting in a loss of color and vitality. To ensure the well-being of these underwater ecosystems, it is crucial to keep coral reefs within the optimal temperature zone, allowing them to continue groovin’ and thriving in their watery abode.

Fact 4: Shore Defenders and Wave Tamers

Coral reefs hold the prestigious title of VIPs (Very Important Protectors) along coastlines, as they play a vital role in reducing coastal wave energy. Studies have shown that coral reefs can slash coastal wave energy by an impressive 97%. Acting as nature’s breakwaters, these underwater structures provide a formidable defense against the erosive forces of waves and storms.

The intricate architecture of coral reefs acts as a natural barrier, dissipating the energy of incoming waves and protecting coastal areas from erosion and damage. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, coral reefs serve as the ultimate shore defenders, making waves and keeping it cool along the coastlines they inhabit.

coral in Costa Rica

Fact 5: Vulnerability and Conservation

Despite their resilience, coral reefs face numerous threats that jeopardize their existence. Human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change pose significant risks to these delicate ecosystems. Rising sea temperatures, in particular, contribute to coral bleaching and the deterioration of reef health.

Conservation efforts are critical to preserving the biodiversity and ecological functions of coral reefs. Initiatives like marine protected areas, sustainable fishing practices, and global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions play pivotal roles in safeguarding these underwater marvels. As stewards of the planet, it is our responsibility to take proactive measures to protect and conserve coral reefs for future generations.

Want to get involved ?

With all of the projects we work hard on throughout the year, we are always looking for help. You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

About the Author

Vera Mkhsian is an 18 year old Intern from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Anthropology student studying to be an Archeologist with a focus in Marine development. A future archaeologist set on diving deep into the ocean’s secrets, Vera dreams of merging the worlds of archaeology and marine biology. Vera actively looks for opportunities to work with scientists to untangle the intertwined tales of human history and ocean life, as she is eager to bridge the gap between archaeology and marine biology.

You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

Apply Now

Diving into Conservation: A Guide

Diving into Conservation: A Guide

Diving into Conservation: A Guide 

Conservation is the conscientious effort to protect and preserve our natural environment, its resources, and the biodiversity that it sustains.

This essential practice aims to maintain the delicate balance of Earth's ecosystems, ensuring they can thrive and provide for current and future generations. .

Conservation can broadly be divided into two types.

In-situ

Conservation of habitats, species and ecosystems where they naturally occur. This is in-situ conservation and the natural processes and interaction are conserved as well as the elements of biodiversity.

Ex-situ

The conservation of elements of biodiversity out of the context of their natural habitats is referred to as ex-situ conservation. Zoos, botanical gardens and seed banks are all examples of ex-situ conservation.

There are 2 types of Conservation; In-situ and Ex-situ

At MCCR we focus on biodiversity conservation for protecting and preserving the variety of underwater life. To do that, we use the In-situ way of conservation by creating new nurseries of several corals. Currently, in our coral restoration project, we are working with four different species of endemic hard corals. Coral fragments are collected from healthy coral colonies opportunistically. These coral fragments are then fragmented and cultivated on discs in our ocean nurseries, which are located near our targeted reef restoration sites.

Coral reef systems play a vital role in maintaining the well-being of our oceans. By promoting the overall health of these reefs, we are nurturing the well-being of the countless species that rely on them for their survival.

The primary goal of MCCR is undeniably coral restoration and conservation. However, our efforts go beyond this, encompassing educational initiatives through events and awareness campaigns. Additionally, we offer PADI courses, which serve as a valuable means of educating individuals. People are more inclined to alter their consumption habits when they possess a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues and their effects on the seabed. Offering diving courses can enhance people’s appreciation for marine biodiversity and foster a stronger commitment to its preservation.

Disclaimer : 

Conservation is crucial, but not a complete solution. It serves as a safety net rather than a panacea. While conservation is indispensable for preservation, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Our primary goal should be preventing environmental damage by embracing sustainability, reducing our ecological footprint, and making conscientious choices. Together, we can ensure a healthier planet for both present and future generations. Conservation is indeed vital and can help address damage already caused, but our foremost focus should be on prevention through sustainable practices, responsible consumption, and eco-friendly policies.

Written by Justine Verburgh