How green is your packaging? – 6 common misconceptions busted

How green is your packaging? – 6 common misconceptions busted

With the world changing we have been forced to reevaluate our way of life. One of the biggest things that has been brought to the forefront is the impact our daily habits have on the health of our planet. Seeing such a sharp change once everyone was in lockdown has made it even more clear. If the earth and nature is given a chance it will fight back.

Over the next month we are going to have a look at how covid has put living a sustainable life in focus. We work everyday to live a sustainable life, but with different information being presented all of the time it is hard to sometimes keep a clear path. Starting on this topic we are looking at one of the most common things we deal with everyday, packaging, and we are addressing 6 common misconceptions about “green packaging”.

Plastic is the bad guy of packaging

plastic packaging

Ban single use plastics has been a common anthem of anyone aiming to live a more sustainable life. The big one of these is plastic bags. Interesting fact, they were originally invented as a reusable carrying source, not intended to be used once and thrown away. But did you know that single use plastics can be more sustainable depending on the material it is made from? Also, how it is used and where it ends up. It actually has a smaller carbon footprint than say a canvas bag . That would have to be used up to 300 times to have a comparable impact. Also, by packing something once, properly in plastic rather than using less effective means of packaging could result in the item being damaged to being sent back. This results in the supply chain extending and so the carbon emissions increasing.

glass packaging

Glass is a always more sustainable than plastic

This is not always true. Glass containers are heavier to transport and are not always recycled back into glass products even after they are collected. They may end up being used in roads amongst other things. For example, I have seen food products presented in glass packaging which can then be recycled so is touted as a more sustainable option. BUT only if the consumer decides to recycle it.

Biodegradable means compostable

As we have discovered over the years, there are different meanings to the word “degradable”. If you see something labeled as “bio-degradable’ Yes it will degrade but many times not without some serious industrial processes. Otherwise they could be in the environment for many years. A label called oxo-degradable is common to see on some plastics. It means that the use of chemicals is required to break them down. This in turn creates microplastics which as we all know are a huge problem in the marine and terrestrial environment and can end up in our food chain. So, next time you are looking at “degradable” bag for example, check what kind of degradable it is.

All plastic is made of the same thing

There is no one type of plastic and yes, all of it is a pollutant. The challenge is to reduce your use of plastic and change the types that we are using. There is a large focus right now on creating plant-based materials for the plastic so producing a more sustainable option. Longer term options are being looked at which include larger scale utilization of these methods. “An example is Tetra-Rex. This is a plant-based carton made from paperboard and plastic derived from sugar cane” said Erik Lindroth from Tetra Pak. If you research some of the companies that are using this type of plastic packaging, you can focus your buying on these options.

Food without packaging is always better

Before this delightful pandemic came our way, there was a very large push around the world to start introducing food stuffs with no packaging. However, this can also have its draw backs. By wrapping in plastic, the shelf life of a food product can be extended so reducing the food waste. Food spoilage and waste can have an even bigger footprint than the single use film. I am not saying that single use film is great, no. It is a pollutant, but it is extremely important as well to take into account the food wastage that may otherwise occur. Food packaging is just a small part of the whole footprint of the product.

All aluminum is bad

After plastic, aluminum is very much frowned upon. Almost 75% of all aluminum is still in circulation which goes along with the thought process that it is infinitely recyclable. The problem has always been though, that it is very energy intensive to recycle to creating a large carbon footprint. However, there is a focus now on low energy aluminum which is produced using clean energy processes. So making the carbon footprint less. This is a great example of a sustainable future and a super weapon in the fight against climate change according to a UK former climate and energy minister.

I know it is hard to take from this one clear message. Yes, plastic is bad, but it it not always the worse option and can be recycled, in the right way and we need to try and prevent it from reaching the oceans. The best we can do in general is juts to overall consume less and be more mindful or what we are buying and how. Everything we can do will have an affect on our planet and oceans. That is what we are trying to save.

Save the Reef with Eco-Friendly Clothing!

Save the Reef with Eco-Friendly Clothing!

Waterlust is an eco-conscious brand helping to fund various marine science research projects.

We Have Partnered with Waterlust – An Environmentally Conscious, Science-Driven Brand

We are excited to share the big news that we are now partnered with Waterlust. An environmentally conscious brand that is helping fund research while educating the world about environmental conservation! Having used Waterlust’s products for years we believe you’ll love them too. Waterlust creates beautiful accessories such as water bottles, headbands, and even face masks (how 2020!). They are best known for their environmentally friendly clothing. They make each item of clothing from recycled, post-consumer plastic bottles ensuring that they have minimal impact on the environment. How cool is that!

At Marine Conservation Costa Rica, we are extremely conscious of our environmental impact and we are careful to only promote products we truly believe in. This is why we are so excited about this partnership. Now when you purchase items from Waterlust, 25% of your total will come back to us at Marine Conservation Costa Rica to help us expand our coral nursery! All you will have to do is shop via our special referral address https://waterlust.com/MCCR. You enter their site and then go shop! Help save our coral reefs, and you’ll have some pretty awesome products. That’s a win-win if you ask me!

Why We Think You’ll Love Waterlust

Whale shark research one piece.

Waterlust’s main goal is to create beautiful clothing with the purpose of telling stories of science while being good for the environment. The dream to create sustainable science-driven clothing comes from a small family run business with backgrounds in marine science. Each piece is carefully made on a small, low impact scale. When someone wears their clothing, they want that person to be a walking and talking advocate for science and for what the garment represents. They call this approach Advocate Apparel, promising that each piece will be created with a purpose.

Support A Cause

Various men’s and women’s prints with their corresponding cause.

You’ll notice on their website that you are able to “shop by cause.” Each of their unique clothing prints advocates for the marine species, ecosystem, or natural phenomenon it represents. 10% of these profits from the sales go to it’s associated research or non-profit organization that is putting in the hard work to make a tangible difference. There are various options to choose from including whale shark research and tiger shark research. Also Atlantic spotted dolphin research and many more.

Their clothing sections appeal to both men and women. While browsing their clothing, you will be able to select the print that you want. This could be a beautiful electric blue of the abalone restoration project, or the bright red sockeye salmon research project. It is a sustainable method of shopping because you can choose what looks good. Also what feels good by giving back to the science-driven cause that you choose in the unique print.

If your favorite animal is a dolphin or a shark, or if you are a coral nerd like us, you will be able to showcase your dedication to the cause while at the gym, on a dive, at yoga, or simply running errands with friends! Their rash guards and bottoms offer sun protection (UPF 50+) made from lightweight, breathable, recycled fabric. Don’t forget – the coolest part is that each top and bottom recycle 17 post-consumer plastic bottles. All of the fabric is quick-drying for all your water activities (diving, surfing, swimming, etc.). Also comfy enough to wear all day long, even once you get out of the water!

Check out their causes here.

Their Environmental Impact

You can read all about Waterlust’s environmental impact on their website but we’ll tell you four reasons why you should feel good about purchasing their products.

The stages that Waterlust takes to ensure environmental responsibility.
  1. The Birth stage is where they carefully assess what they will need to manufacture the product while being conscious of their water use, carbon emissions, and agricultural land demands.
  2. The life stage represents how each product is produced to be long-lasting, the less it will have to be replaced significantly reduces environmental cost.
  3. Death is where they consider what will happen to the clothes when you are done with them by ensuring biodegradability and recyclability.
  4. Each order is wrapped in 100% recycled and biodegradable kraft paper – zero-waste packaging!

How Your Purchase Will Save The Reef

By partnering with Waterlust, Marine Conservation Costa Rica will receive 25% of the proceeds when you purchase an item with our special link: https://waterlust.com/MCCR

Coral Internships in Costa Rica
Cleaning at one of our coral nurseries that you will be helping to expand!

We have been working tirelessly and diligently to expand our growing coral nursery. Being a non-profit during a pandemic has proven to have its challenges, but it’s nothing we can’t work through! By choosing to support Waterlust, you will be supporting science research and you will also be helping fund the expansion of our coral restoration project.

10 Ways to conserve sharks (without leaving your couch)

10 Ways to conserve sharks (without leaving your couch)

2020 has been a very strange and emotional year for all of us, above the surface and below. While we have been stuck in lockdown, sharks have been falling victim to numerous dangers caused by humans. Sharks are under more threat than ever before, and I’m here to show you 10 simple ways that you can help conserve sharks without even leaving your couch – how COVID-19 friendly!

1. Sign Petitions

Signing petitions that demand protection of shark populations worldwide is the quickest thing that you can do to make a difference right now.

A petition being organized by Change.org needs all hands on deck to ban fishing on the high seas surrounding the Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador. If you are not familiar with what is happening, there are over 200 fishing vessels operating at the edge of the protective zone. The Galapagos Islands are one of the largest biodiverse ecosystems in the world, being home to many species of shark. These vessels are practicing unsustainable fishing practices, resulting in the bycatch of thousands of sharks and completely decimating the shark populations in a protected area.
Click here to sign the petition.

For more petitions check out Support our Sharks, they take the time to gather any and all petitions surrounding shark conservation. I even found some concerning my home country, you may be surprised by what you find.

2. Get Involved with Conservation Groups

Coral fragments taking time to grow at one of our nurseries

There are many conservation organizations making a big impact daily, and you can get involved with just the click of a button.

Like with us! Marine Conservation Costa Rica runs numerous conservation programs that you can join once the travel bans are lifted. In the meantime, you can Adopt a Coral! Coral reefs are home to sharks, they use them to graze and hunt for food, keeping the ecosystem of the reef balanced. By adopting a coral, you are supporting our coral restoration project that is bringing life back to our reef. With your purchase, you will have the opportunity to name your little coral and receive a certificate with all of its information, even the GPS location!

PADI has been a long time partner with Project AWARE, a global movement committed to ocean protection. They make it super easy to donate to their initiatives, and they invest 25% of their donations into shark and ray conservation.

Other conservation groups that we know and love are Sea Shepherd, Fins Attached, and Sharkwater, so check ’em out.

3. Adopt a Shark

This is a fun and unique way to do your part in conserving sharks, plus it would make a great gift for someone special!

There are a few companies that allow you to “adopt a shark,” such as Oceana and Shark Trust. You give a small donation in exchange for an adoption pack and certificate telling you all about the shark that you have just helped sponsor. The majority of proceeds go toward shark research and conservation. I call that a win, win.

4. Reduce Your Seafood Consumption

Large scale commercial fishing practices negatively impact shark populations in multiple ways. Humans like to eat boney fish, and inconveniently so do sharks, so by fishing on a large scale we are depleting their primary source of food. Sustainable fishing is important because sharks often become victims of hooks or nets which are meant for other fish, but they become entangled while chasing an easy meal. By simply reducing your consumption of seafood, you can reduce the number of sharks killed each year.

5. Choose Sustainable Seafood

Unsafe fishing practices and bycatch pose the largest threat to our world’s sharks. Bycatch is when a fish or other marine species are accidentally caught while fishing for something else. This is most common with commercial long-line fishing. According to WWF, 3.3 million sharks are victims of bycatch every year, and that’s only in the Pacific Ocean! Do your research and choose to buy fish from properly managed and sustainably run fishermen. Buy small, and buy locally.

Pro Tip: If you are from the United States, The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a great guide to sustainable seafood in every state in their Seafood Watch Consumer Guide, just select your state and numerous options will appear for your area!

6. Education Is Power

Learn as much as you possibly can about sharks, learn about their habitats, their behavior, different species, and then educate yourself on how human practices are putting them in danger. Investing in your own education is powerful, it builds knowledge, creates confidence, and opens countless doors of opportunity. The more educated you are about them, the more ways you can find to help Conserve sharks. Plus, you might just inspire someone to do the same.

7. Use Your Voice

Social media is not just a place for stories, status updates, and pictures. It is also a powerful tool that you can use as a platform for your voice. Start sharing photos, articles, and updates about sharks. Even if you catch the attention of one person, you have done your job. As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love,” so show people that sharks are intelligent creatures worth protecting.

Spread the word – an ocean without sharks is more frightening than an ocean with sharks.

8. Vote Wisely

Support legislation that stops shark fishing, protects ecosystems, and ends unsustainable fishing practices. Before election day, make sure to research your local candidate’s values and promises. Use your right to elect officials who actively support ocean and marine life conservation.

9. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

coral research projects
A recent dive for debris where we found bottles, flip-flops, fishing lines, and food wrappers.

Sharks become entangled in plastic fishing gear and other plastic materials, often leading to irreversible damage or death. Also, sharks often confuse plastic for food, and so do the smaller fish who the sharks then eat, resulting in all levels of the food chain ingesting plastics.

So, what can you do? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle of course!

The most common forms of trash found on land and underwater clean-ups by us are bottle caps, straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, food wrappers, and bottles/cans.

1. Purchase reusable drink and food containers, beeswax wraps are a great alternative to cling wrap.
2. Buy a reusable bag such as one made from cotton or recycled materials.
3. Contact your local recycling depot and become familiar with what materials they can and cannot recycle.

10. Check Your Cosmetics

Yep, you read that right!

Chances are that you’ve used cosmetics or sunscreens containing shark products before, you just didn’t know it. The ingredient to look out for is “squalene,” which is shark liver oil. Squalene is most commonly used in anti-aging creams, hair treatments, lipsticks, sunscreen, and many others.

According to The Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation, about 50 different species of shark are fished for their liver oil, even species that are considered endangered such as the deep-sea shark, because their liver is 20% of their body weight.

Before you buy your next product, check to see that it has the “cruelty-free” stamp or that it is a vegan / plant-based product.

Make Big Waves For Change!

We know that getting out there and doing hands-on conservation work is hard at the moment with travel bans, restrictions, and lockdowns. Although, these 10 easy things are impacts that you can make right now, without leaving your bed or couch, to ensure a better future for our oceans and our sharks! Once restrictions ease, plan a beach cleanup with friends, go diving with sharks, or plan a volunteer holiday to learn more about our ocean’s diverse ecosystems! The sharks are counting on you.

Helping our local turtle population – Story of a family man with a  passion

Helping our local turtle population – Story of a family man with a passion

Turtles are one of the most iconic and majestic encounters that you can have underwater. Scuba diving and seeing one is always a thrill. But like many of our amazing creatures they are under threat. Some scientists estimate that sea turtle populations have decreased by 90% over the past 100 years. 90%!!! Think about that for a moment.

sea turtle costa rica

Turtles are under threat

There are many factors that have contributed to this . Humans, as ever being the major cause of most of them. They do face natural threats like predation, but, with things like long lining, marine debris, consumption of turtle eggs and turtle meat and marine pollution, the odds of their survival are ever smaller.

One of the factors that make it hard for nesting populations to recover is the fact that only 1 in 1000 to 10,000 of sea turtle hatchlings actually get to adult hood. All these threats combine to make life very hard for them. But, we as ever want to what we can to help.

Isla Damas Turtle nesting beach

Just 1 km from our town of Quepos is the beach of Damas. On this beach, every year Olive Ridley turtles, one of the seven species of sea turtles come up and nest. They visit between the months of June and November with the hatchlings emerging from October to December time. They are on an unprotected beach and subject to poaching from the nearby community. This makes it hard on the population that comes to nest.

Milo sea turtle saviour

But, they have some help. One man, Francisco “Milo” Duran Parra has taken it upon himself to do what he can. Helping the population that is coming and nesting there over the past few years and we want to help him. He lives about 3km up the beach in a very isolated area and most nights when he can he patrols the beach. Retrieving nests that he can to place them safely in the nursery that he has then constructed. He hopes to get there before another person, out to poach the nests does, but sometimes he is not lucky. With the currently situation, we fear that more people will be out looking for the eggs to sell and eat as times are more difficult.

Once they begin to hatch, he releases them again, back into the ocean to make it on their own. By doing this, he is increasing their chances, even a small amount, which makes all the difference.

He has help from his family and a couple of neighbors, who, when able to, will assist him with his mission but this is not a regular occurrence. When the hatchlings are released many of the local community will go and see this amazing event but he never asks for anything. He loves the turtles and wants to help in whatever way he can.

How can we help?

Here at Marine Conservation Costa Rica, we love all aspects of our ocean world and want to help. This project is on our doorstep and we want to help Milo with his mission. Right now, the new season is fast approaching, he has already begun preparing and repairing the nursery for the nests as the turtles come up. But it needs help. The nests need protection from natural predators, like crabs and birds, and from other predators like curious dogs and raccoons. How do we do that? By building the nursery down at least 80cm and reinforcing it with fencing. This takes materials and man power.

sea turtle nursery Damas island

We have worked out, that to get the nursery built, that it is reinforced and well protected it will take approximately $500. This includes the materials and the labour to dig the existing perimeter down deeper to protect it from scavenging crabs. We need your help with this. We are asking for donations that we can pass to Milo and his family to help them this upcoming season. Looking to the future we will want to expand our help with this project, including volunteering with his patrols, but right now, this is the most urgent need for the project before the larger nesting population arrives.

sea turtle nursery quepos

This is just one of the small things that we can do to help Milo with his amazing mission of protecting the sea turtles and we hope it will be the start of something more that we will be able to do in the future.

If you can donate any amount to the Damas sea turtle project, please click below, enter your details, and we will see that your generosity goes to the right place.

Let’s help Milo with the turtles. Thank you!

Spotlight on Coral – Threats to Coral

Spotlight on Coral – Threats to Coral

Threats to Coral Reefs

If we are to be able to protect coral reef systems it is very important to know what kind of threats corals are dealing with right now!
We can divide these threats in three groups: abiotic threats, biological threats and anthropogenic threats. So let’s take a look…

Abiotic threats to Coral Reefs

Abiotic threats are caused by physical or chemical factors that  affect living organisms and the functioning of an ecosystem. For instance in reef systems temperature, light, pH and salinity but also things like chemical components in soil and water.
A current and widely known result of changes in physical factors is coral bleaching. Coral bleaching happens when corals lose their vibrant colors and turn white.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. Coral are bright and colorful because of microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae live within the coral in a mutually beneficial relationship, each helping the other survive. But when the ocean environment changes, particularly to an increase in temperature, the coral is put under stress and expels the algae. When the algae is expelled, the coral’s colors fade until it looks like it’s been bleached. If the temperature stays high, the coral won’t let the algae back, and the coral will die. The leading cause of coral bleaching is climate change. A warming planet means a warming ocean, and a small change in water temperature—as little as 2 degrees Fahrenheit—can cause coral to drive out algae. Coral may bleach for other reasons, like extremely low tides, pollution, too much sunlight, change in pH. 

Other abiotic threats can be the wind, weather and the waves that cause the physical damage of coral reefs. Turbidity can cause a lack of sunlight for the corals, this makes the corals unable to perform photosynthesis. Other things that may cause stress to the corals are a change in sediment levels, pressure, salinity, current, ocean depth and nutrients.

bleached coral
bleached coral costa rica

Biotic threats to Coral Reefs

Biotic threats are caused by the living components of an ecosystem, for instance the fishes, invertebrates and competing corals. They are mostly natural interactions between corals, parasites, predators, or coral disease. They can also be non natural threats, like invasive parasites, predators and coral diseases that have been introduced to a coral ecosystem.

Anthropogenic threats to Coral Reefs

Anthropogenic threats are threats caused by humans. Humans may also be indirectly responsible for many biotic and abiotic threats; like ocean warming and the introduction of non-native species in many ecosystems all round the globe.
Most coral reefs occur in shallow water near shore. As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of human activities. This is both through direct exploitation of reef resources, and through indirect impacts from adjacent human activities on land and in the coastal zone. Many of the human activities that degrade coral reefs are inextricably woven into the social, cultural, and economic fabric of regional coastal communities. 

Pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices such as using dynamite or cyanide, collecting live corals for the aquarium market, mining coral for building materials, and a warming climate are some of the many ways that people damage reefs all around the world every day. 

One of the most significant threats to reefs is pollution. Land-based runoff and pollutant discharges can result from dredging, coastal development, agricultural and deforestation activities, and sewage treatment plant operations. This runoff may contain sediments, nutrients, chemicals, insecticides, oil, and debris.

When some pollutants enter the water, nutrient levels can increase, promoting the rapid growth of algae and other organisms that can smother corals.

Coral reefs also are affected by leaking fuels, anti-fouling paints and coatings, and other chemicals that enter the water. Petroleum spills do not always appear to affect corals directly because the oil usually stays near the surface of the water, and much of it evaporates into the atmosphere within days. However, if an oil spill occurs while corals are spawning, the eggs and sperm can be damaged as they float near the surface before they fertilize and settle. So, in addition to compromising water quality, oil pollution can disrupt the reproductive success of corals, making them vulnerable to other types of disturbances.

Ocean acidification is mainly caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere dissolving into the ocean. This leads to a lowering of the water’s pH, making the ocean more acidic. This in turn causes the hard limestone skeletons of coral to become weaker and in some areas the reef is crumbling away.

Many factors contribute to rising carbon dioxide levels. Currently, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for human industry is one of the major causes.

diseased coral

In many areas, coral reefs are destroyed when coral heads and brightly-colored reef fishes are collected. They are sold for the aquarium and jewelry trade. Careless or untrained divers can trample fragile corals, and many fishing techniques can be destructive. In blast fishing, dynamite or other heavy explosives are detonated to startle fish out of hiding places.

This practice indiscriminately kills other species and can demolish or stress corals so much that they expel their zooxanthellae. As a result, large sections of reefs can be destroyed. Cyanide fishing involves spraying or dumping cyanide onto reefs to stun and capture live fish. This can kill coral polyps and degrades the reef habitat. More than 40 countries are affected by blast fishing, and more than 15 countries have reported cyanide fishing activities.

Other damaging fishing techniques include deep water trawling. This involves dragging a fishing net along the sea bottom. There is also muro-ami netting, in which reefs are pounded with weighted bags to startle fish out of crevices. Often, fishing nets left as debris can be problematic in areas of wave disturbance. In shallow water, live corals become entangled in these nets and are torn away from their bases. In addition anchors dropped from fishing vessels onto reefs can break and destroy coral colonies.


What can we do to stop threats to coral reefs?


Without a doubt, at this time, humans are causing the most threats to coral reef systems. Coral have thrived on earth for it is thought to be over 500 million years. Humans have been around for the last 200,000 years. With industrialization and the greed in recent decades, there is a real possibility that we could wipe them out in the next 50 years.
Coral restoration projects can only do so much. We all need to make positive changes in our lifestyles to help coral reefs. If we can slow climate change, reduce C02 emissions, and choose to spend money on sustainably produced products, we might be able to make a difference!

So next time you turn off a light or walk to work, remember you are helping coral reefs!

If you would like to support our project, we accept donations through PayPal at paypal.me/Marinecostarica 

sebastiaan marine conservation intern

Sebastiaan Moesbergen joins us from the Netherlands. He is currently studying applied Biology at University and has been enrolled in our internship program since the beginning of March. As part of his internship he is assisting us with research and investigation and has been spearheading our spotlight on coral articles. Thank you Sebastian!

Spotlight on Coral – Pocillopora damicornis

Spotlight on Coral – Pocillopora damicornis

We are back with our spotlight on coral. Pocillopra damicornis is the third principal hard coral that we work with in Costa Rica. Our coral intern Sebastian has created this great article all about it.

Here are some cool coral facts about Pocillopora damicornis!

What is Pocillopora damicornis?

coral restoration costa rica

Pocillopora damicornis is a species of branching stony coral, commonly known as Cauliflower coral. The species is distinguished from other species by having thinner branches and less regular verrucae. While small, regular verrucae exist, most of the protuberances are irregular and are often not true verrucae at all but are more like incipient branches. As a result, Pocillopora damicornis exhibits greater branching than does P. verrucosa. Colonies are usually less than 30 cm tall. Reported growth rates of Pocillopora damicornis vary substantially between locations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, from 1.27 cm per year in Colombia to 3.96 cm per year in Panama.

Pocillopora damicornis occurs at all depths between the surface and 40 m deep or more, and is particularly abundant between 5 to 20 m. It is equally abundant in lagoonal areas and clear water reef slopes. Commonly forms monospecific, densely packed stands many tens of metres across in water 5 -10 m deep.

Restoration Success with Pocillopora damicornis

coral restoration project

We started our coral restoration project with Pocillopora damicornis and Pavona gigantea. Pocillopora is a great candidate for reef restoration, as a branching coral it is easy to harvest from wild coral colonies and it is also relatively easy to micro fragment. Pocillopora has responded well in our coral nurseries with good growth rates in both table nurseries and line nurseries. This coral species has a faster growth rate than the two massive coral species, which means shorter time in the nurseries, and therefore less maintenance and costs.

Geographic Range of Pocillopora damicornis

Pocillopora damicornis has a broad range which extends from the pacific coast of the americas america all the way to East Africa and the Red Sea. in the tropical pacific and through to oceania and southeast asia. The range of this coral in panama is it even considered as one of the major reef building species.

coral restoration in costa rica

Feeding methods of Pocillopora damicornis

Cauliflower corals are a filter feeding species that catch plankton and other small organisms from the water column using their hair-like tentacles. 

Sexual Reproduction of Pocillopora damicornis

Pocillopora damicornis is a broadcast spawner with the capacity to function as a simultaneous hermaphrodite. Pocillopora damicornis, like other Pocilloporid species in the eastern Pacific, has low rates of recruitment.

Histological evidence indicates that spawning is likely to occur during a few days around the new moon. The reproductive activity in the eastern Pacific is related to local thermal regimes. This then results in a generally higher incidence of coral recruits at sites with stable, warm water conditions. Also during warming periods in areas that experience significant seasonal variation. Pocillopora damicornis is also able to spread asexual due to natural fragmentation, making this coral a good candidate for restoration efforts.

Specific Living Conditions for Pocillopora damicornis

  • temperature: 20 °C -30 °C (optimal is 26 °C )
  • salinity: 34- 38 ‰ 
  • Depth: 0-40 meter
  • Ph: 8,1- 8,4
  • DKH: 8-12
  • Habitat: occurs in all shallow water habitats from exposed reef fronts to mangrove swamps and wharf piles
  • sedimentation, Pocillopora is relatively tolerant as long as there is adequate water motion


We hope you enjoyed the article, thank you to our intern Sebastian Moesbergen for writing it.

If you are interested in joining our team at Marine Conservation Costa Rica you can contact us. We run internships, volunteer programs and research opportunities, please contact us here.

sebastiaan intern

Sebastiaan Moesbergen joins us from the Netherlands. He is currently studying applied Biology at University and has been enrolled in our internship program since the beginning of March. As part of his internship he is assisting us with research and investigation and has been spearheading our spotlight on coral articles. Thank you Sebastian!

Spotlight on Coral – Pavona gigantea

Spotlight on Coral – Pavona gigantea

We are continuing our Spotlight on Coral Series of Blog. This week we look at another or our 3 types of hard coral that we are fragmenting in our coral restoration project at Marine Conservation Costa Rica. So here’s an indepth look at Pavona gigantea…..

What is Pavona gigantea?

Pavona gigantea is known as plate coral or leaf coral. It is a common coral that grows in relatively shallow and protected areas. Pavona has a naturally occurring growth rate of between 9 and 12 mm each year and also grows large plate colonies. They have visible coralites with a width of between 3 and 6 mm. The colonies tend to have a furry appearance due to the extension of their tentacles during the day.

Restoration Success with Pavona gigantea

Fragment of Pavona
restoration of Pavona Gigantea

Pavona gigantea can be relatively easy to harvest and fragment, as it often grows in plate formation. The younger growth to the edge of a plate is often thin and can be easily harvested. The older growth is thicker and extremely dense. The Pavona has responded well to micro fragmentation in our restoration project. Pavona gigantea seems to be reasonably resilient to stress and we have had a low mortality rate.

Geographic Range of Pavona gigantea

Pavona gigantea is found in the pacific ocean, growing along the coast of middle america from Mexico to Ecuador and in the Galapagos and Cocos Islands. In the Mid- Western Pacific, it is found in reefs located in the middle of the ocean. This is around the body of water between Japan and Papua New Guinea.

Feeding methods of Pavona Gigantea

Pavona Gigantea in Costa Rica

Corals consume particulate organic matter and absorb dissolved organic matter. However, their consumption of plankton is limited to zooplankton that is in the 200- 400​ ​μm size range. They use their tentacles to obtain this food. The same as other hard corals, Pavona gigantea depends on receiving most of its energy from it’s symbiotic relationship with the Zooxanthellae. These use photosynthesis to harness energy..

Sexual Reproduction of Pavona Gigantea

Typically Pavona gigantea colonies are gonochoristic, broadcast spawners. This is that there are both male and female colonies releasing eggs into the water column. Spawning takes place at the beginning of the rainy season, normally between May and July. Interestingly, in a few studies of Pavona gigantea, hermaphroditic colonies have also been discovered! This is likely to be an example of sequential cosexuality. It is when corals can begin their reproductive life as males and then become hermaphroditic. It has been suggested that sequential cosexuality is an adaption to guarantee sexual reproduction and increase connectivity among populations.

Specific Living Conditions for Pavona gigantea

Temperature: 18 °C -29 °C
Salinity: 34- 37 parts per thousand
Depth: abundant between:0,5 -20 meters Ph: 8,1
Dissolved oxygen concentration: 4.55 mL/L

Nitrate concentration: 0.831 ​μmol/L Phosphate concentration: 0.357 μmol/L Silicate concentration: 1.776 μmol/L

We hope you learnt something. Thank you Sebastian for the great info and help with this. If you want to learn more about our project you can contact us here or apply to become a volunteer or intern here in Costa rica.

Sebastiaan intern with marine conservation costa rica

Sebastiaan Moesbergen joins us from the Netherlands. He is currently studying applied Biology at University and has been enrolled in our internship program since the beginning of March. As part of his internship he is assisting us with research and investigation and has been spearheading our spotlight on coral articles. Thank you Sebastian!

Spotlight on Coral – Porites lobata

Spotlight on Coral – Porites lobata

Intern life in Lockdown

The life of a marine conservation intern is a busy one. With current times our interns are safely back home and helping us from afar. As part of this one of our interns, Sebastian Moesbergen has been researching our coral species here in Costa Rica. Our first one here is Porites lobata.It is one of our 3 types of hard coral that we, at Marine Conservation Costa Rica, are fragmenting in our coral restoration project on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We thought you would be interested in a more in depth look at this interesting coral…so here goes for some cool coral facts!

What is Porites lobata?

Porites Lobata Costa Rica

Porites Lobata is a common reef-building coral that can grow into very large colonies, building large coral reefs throughout its range. This species forms large hemispherical or helmet-shaped structures that can reach several meters across. For this reason, Porites lobata is also known as “Lobe Coral”. Though they appear to be very large, only the outer few millimeters represent living tissue, while the rest is a calcium carbonate skeleton. Porites Lobata structures only grow a few centimeters each year and may be hundreds of years old. Each structure is actually a colony of several genetically identical animals living together. In some areas, several colonies grow together to form a nearly continuous stretch of Porites Lobatas that may be tens of meters (or more) long.

Restoration Success with Porites Lobata

Coral restoration in Costa Rica

We were initially uncertain about using Porites lobata in our restoration project, as it is a notoriously slow growing coral. However, after success with 2 other species of hard coral, we decided that Porites was the obvious choice to expand our project. It is one of the dominant massive corals in our region, along with Pavona gigantea. We initially tested fragmenting Porites lobata on a small scale. Only micro fragmenting 40 new fragments that went into 2 nurseries as 2 different locations. Initially, there was little growth in either nursery, but after 2 months we had significant growth. After 3 months most fragments were at least doubled if not tripled in size. In the last 6 months we have expanded our Porites lobata nurseries and look forward to outplanting Porties lobata back onto our reefs in Costa Rica.


Geographic Range of Porites lobata 

Porites lobata has a huge geographic range throughout tropical and subtropical regions. Porites Lobata can be found from East Africa, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. They can be found all the way through Indonesia and Australian waters to the Pacific coasts of California and Central America.


Feeding methods of Porites lobata

Many corals can function as carnivores, using their tentacles to capture small planktonic animals drifting over the reef. Special stinging cells that line the surfaces of the polyps’ tentacles entangle and paralyze their prey. Other corals are suspension feeders. They use hair-like structures called cilia to collect particles of organic matter that drift down from above. The polyps of Porites lobata  are so small that researchers question if they are actually capable of capturing prey.

Luckily, corals also act as primary producers. Single-celled algae called zooxanthellae live within the tissues of reef-building corals in a symbiotic relationship. Using sunlight and nutrients from the water and their coral hosts, zooxanthellae generate energy-rich compounds through photosynthesis. These carbon-rich products may be particularly important in the energy budget of Porites lobata.

Sexual Reproduction of Porites lobata.

Coral restoration project costa rica

Unlike many species of corals, Porites lobata colonies are gonochoristic. This means they are either male or female, not both. They reproduce via broadcast spawning. This is where several individuals release their eggs or sperm into the water column at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs become fertilized and reduces the danger from egg predators near the reef surface. Within a few days after the eggs hatch, larvae settle onto the reef surface and begin to form new colonies.


Specific Living Conditions for Porite lobata some scientific data for you…

Temperature range that the corals like is between 18 °C and 30 °C , for example, if the water temperature is higher than 30°C the coral starts bleaching). The Salinity ideal is between: 34 and 38 % and depth range between 0 and 30 meters. Ideal Ph is between 8,4 -7,7. They have an oxygen demand of 0,21 (μmol L−1 h−1) and a bacterial cell yield of  0,06 – 0,10( cells × 105 mL−1 h−1).


Want to become part of our team?

Want to join our team at Marine Conservation Costa Rica in the future to do a coral internship? Please contact us at info@marineconservationcostarica.org

Written by Sebastian Moesbergen
sebastiaan marine conservation intern

Sebastiaan Moesbergen joins us from the Netherlands. He is currently studying applied Biology at University and has been enrolled in our internship program since the beginning of March. As part of his internship he is assisting us with research and investigation and has been spearheading our spotlight on coral articles. Thank you Sebastian!

The Stay at home Blenny – 7 fascinating facts

The Stay at home Blenny – 7 fascinating facts

blenny fascinating facts

With people in lockdown all around the world we are all looking for inspiration from different avenues. As we dream of the ocean from the safety of our homes, I thought we could look towards the Blenny. A beautiful example of a stay at home fish. The Blenny is the common name of various species of extremely numerous small fishes belonging to the suborders Blennioidei (blennies) and Notothenioidei (Antarctic blennies). There are hundreds of different species of blennies around the world and they are all fascinating creatures. Here are some amazing facts about this stay at home fish that will hopefully inspire you.

1.They can be great copycats

Many blennies demonstrate mimicry of other species of fish. By mimicking other species it allows the blenny to get up close to other fish. For example, if they are mimicking a cleaner wrasse other fish pass by to let them clean. The blenny then takes nips or larger bites out of the unsuspecting fish. 

2.They like to hide out

Many blennies have a secretive lifestyle. This protects them from predation. They hide on the sea floors in shallow water. Many of them with cryptic coloration making them very hard to spot.

Blenny in Costa Rica
Photo taken by Gina Nicole

3. They can have a nasty bite

One genus of blenny is truly venomous and that is the Meiacanthus. This particular blenny can inject venom from its mandibular, hollow fangs. Their venom contains an opioid-like protein which they use to defend themselves.

4.They like a varied menu

Many blennies are detritivorous. This means that they consume dead plant and animal matter. Some blenny species are mainly herbivorous, and others are partially to completely carnivorous.

5.They can hang out on the land too

One species of blenny is called the rockskipper (Istiblennius zebra).It is a small Hawaiian blenny and is a representative of several that live along shores and can hop about on land as well as hang out in ocean.

6.They are a unique fish when it comes to feeding their young

One species of blenny, the European eelpout or viviparous blenny (Zoarces viviparus) is very unique. They are native to the English Channel and Baltic sea. They are the only fish known to suckle its offspring. This is done when each young attaches its mouth to the opening of a canal inside the mother. The canal leads to an ovarian follicle, which then dispenses fats, proteins, fluid saturated with oxygen, and other nutrients to them.

Blenny in Costa Rica - Photo taken by Gina Nicole
Photo courtesy of Gina Nicole

7.They are small but mighty

With so many different species of blennies in the world they all have varying temperaments.Some are calm and some can be aggressive. An example if the The Hawaiian Runula goslinei and the Pacific R. tapeinosoma blennies. Both of these are small but will readily attack a swimmer or diver by biting them.

6 things to reduce your ocean impact – even if you’re miles away from the blue

6 things to reduce your ocean impact – even if you’re miles away from the blue

What does it take to save an ocean?

Scientists will hand you their most scholarly answers based off of their scientific research and try to explain it in a very complex way. But, when it comes down to it, the answer is simply us collectively acknowledging our environmental impact and agreeing to change. The keyword in any environmental discussion these days is change. But how? The change takes you and it takes me. Whether you are based off the coastline or thousands of miles away from the nearest ocean, you matter.

Living in a landlocked state

Growing up in a landlocked state, conversations involving ocean depletion were not all too common. It wasn’t until I moved to a beach town that I was truly introduced to the issues concerning the health of the ocean. And really, the overall planet. Now, as a college graduate with a degree in Marine Environmental Science, I am surrounded and almost engulfed by the global issues. It makes me wonder how I didn’t know about all of this before. I recently asked those in my life that aren’t surrounded by a body of water. They don’t have lives dedicated to environmental studies, so what were their views on ocean related topics and their involvement. It blew my mind that the majority of the answers I received, were that they believed their actions did not have any effect on the ocean.

To be honest, growing up, my first thought when I got in the car or bought a single use plastic bottle wasn’t that I was affecting the ocean. It wasn’t until I was educated on human’s impacts that I realized we are all truly connected and dependent. Now that I am aware, I can’t turn back. I will educate others on the dramatic effects we as humans have on the matter and what we can do to change it no matter where we are.

Here are a few ways you can help the ocean whether you are near it or not:

Change your carbon footprint

walk to work

To reduce your ocean impact you can ride the bus or use public transportation. Why not use a bike or walk: The atmosphere is warming at an alarming rate due to our carbon footprint. The ocean collects the heat and without the ocean, we would be in huge trouble. The collected heat then causes marine life (especially coral) to suffer. Your personal decision to limit the amount of energy contributes to the overall effort to stop climate change.

Support environmental organizations or organizations that support environmental movements:

If you are not near an ocean, donations are greatly appreciated as well as purchasing environmentally safe products that support good causes. Nonprofit organizations are incredible and your contribution, no matter how big or small, matters. Financial contributions are a great way to feel involved and connected.

Coral restoration in Costa Rica

Where does your food come from?

Know where your food is coming from: check the labels and restaurants. Are they getting their seafood from a sustainable resource? Much of the ocean’s threat is a result from overfishing and fishing through unacceptable practices including long lining which ultimately kills bycatch such as sea turtles and sharks.

Plastic, plastic, plastic

Plastic after a dive againest debris

Reduce your use of plastic: Plastic and microplastic are two contributors to the destruction of our oceans and its marine life. Rivers and storm drains carry an enormous amount of trash into the ocean which ends up ingested by fish and much more. To cut back on the amount of plastic used, start carrying a recycled grocery bag to the store instead of using several plastic bags from your items. Use a reusable water bottle instead of single use plastic water bottles that come in plastic packaging. Bring your own to-go containers instead of the boxes they hand you at restaurants. Ultimately, become aware. Start noticing the amount of plastic that is so commonly used and get creative to come up with ways to reuse.

Use your voice

Vote to reduce your ocean impact: Vote on ocean related issues. You have a voice and your opinion matters. Voting and signing petitions grabs the attention of those who are able to actively do greater things for our planet. Use your power to take a stand and join the effort.

Keep yourself informed

Stay educated: You can reduce your ocean impact if you educate yourself on global and local environmental issues. The planet is connected and your local environment matters globally. Discuss these issues with friends or family and get involved. Watch documentaries and read the articles. Scientists and divers are out in the water seeing it with their own eyes and they have a lot to say. Listen. Being aware and acknowledging the issue will inspire others to get involved as well.

One of my favorite scientists and ocean explorers Dr. Sylvia Earle once said “No water, no life. No blue, no green”.

Kaitlyn Loucks – MCCR writer