Community Eco-Art in Quepos!

Community Eco-Art in Quepos!

We recently joined forces with a awesome bunch of  like-minded environmentally conscious folk in Quepos. Together we built this beautiful Sailfish made of reused plastic bottles. The entire construction process took more than 180 hours, so working over 15 days. The sculpture consists of over 3500 bottles, 3000 caps, and is an impressive 13 meter in length and weighs 200 kilos.

Assembling the bottles

All this plastic for the art project was collected from our region around Quepos. Much of it is recyclable plastic…however, did you know that plastic cannot be recycled in Costa Rica? In fact, Costa Rica only has the capacity to recycle glass.

plastic bottle sculpting

All other collected recyclables like plastic, aluminum and paper, have to be exported for recycling with current figures showing that only 9% of plastic collected for recycling is actually recycled. Much of our recycling ends up in landfills in far corners of the globe or burnt, so releasing toxic gases.
This is why recycling is no longer the solution for our plastic world..we find alternatives to plastics.

REDUCE, REUSE and REFUSE!

Sailfish sculpture Marina Pez Vela


This beautiful sailfish represents a hope for the future of Quepos. Many hands joined together to make it a reality, working together under the blazing sun and the occasional rain storm. Art projects like this are a way to reuse plastics and raise awareness of the plastic problem. Thank you to the Comite Ambiental de Quepos and to the artist, Alban Corrales for letting us work on this amazing project.

plastic reuse

Pura Vida!

Kat

8 Fun facts about Coral

8 Fun facts about Coral

Coral in Costa Rica

Coral reefs are referred to as the underwater cities of our planet. Diverse species collect and congest the underwater habitat. This gives them an appearance of hectic yet systematic city traffic. Warm-water fish and other marine species gather throughout the ecosystem due to their dependency.

This mass collection of colorful marine life allows many curious visitors to experience such beautiful and natural entertainment. Although when coral reefs are brought up for discussion, we tend to think of this tropical climate only a few feet below the surface, but that is not always the case. Here are some fun facts about the amazing coral reefs that maybe you didn’t know.

They are not just shallow water lovers..

Deeper Corals in Costa Rica

Deep-sea coral reefs can thrive as deep as 2,000m below sea level. With little to no exposure to sunlight, they result to feeding on microscopic organisms where current flow is accelerated. Other marine organisms such as deep sea shrimp and crab depend on these tree like shaped structures for habitat. Deep-sea corals grow about 5-25mm a year and form groves of tree, feather, column, or fan structures. Although they take their time, the underwater gardens created in the depths are very extraordinary. Enough to keep scientists wanting more, despite what little knowledge we currently possess about the depths. 

They have healing properties

Scientists may not have all the answers to questions associated with the depths of our oceans. Although we like to think that we have all the answers about the purpose of more shallow water reefs. We are constantly discovering new key advantages the reef provides for not only marine life, but for humans. Scientists have discovered that the coral’s chemical compounds they produce can be used for numerous healing techniques and medications. For example, for patients suffering from illnesses such as heart disease, viruses and human bacterial infections. Also Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. Much more research is still in store, but coral reefs have been considered the “medicine of the 21st century”.

They have ways of looking after themselves too

Coral reefs in costa Rica

Coral reefs are being studied worldwide for their ability to heal humans suffering from various illnesses. They are also being consumed by these humans globally. Yet who is taking care of the coral when they are sick? Different reactions have been displayed by the coral in an effort to get our attention. I think by far the most fascinating presentation has been the Glowing Corals. Coral Bleaching has been a recent but very serious issue which is caused by climate change and has caused the coral to suffer greatly from the heat. In response, the coral develops a sunscreen-like chemical that is very vibrant, giving off a fascinating glow throughout the reef.

Watch your sunblock please!

Although corals are able to produce sunscreen, the topic of sunscreen still needs to be discussed. Studies have shown that many top brand sunscreens we use such as Tropicana and Coppertone possess harmful chemicals like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate which are essentially absorbed by the coral. The chemicals accumulate in the tissue and cause the same reaction to coral as rising ocean temperatures do, coral bleaching. Places such as Hawaii and Palau are taking part in the banning of harmful coral reef sunscreens and a better future for the underwater ecosystem is hopeful.

Plastic? No thank you!

PLAstic on the coral reef

We are fighting for a better future for coral reefs globally but face many obstacles caused by the destructive behavior of man. One of the most concerning issues is the pollution of plastics. Studies found that Astrangia corals actually prefer microplastics over their regular diet (shrimp eggs). Because there is such a large quantity of plastic found in the ocean, researchers have found over 100 pieces of microplastic in the guts of wild coral. I guess you could call this a guilty pleasure. 

Eating is a friendly affair

Coral must have a strong digestive system to consume that much plastic. How do corals consume plastic and other food daily? They do not have eyes therefor it is impossible to hunt visually. Instead, they have strategically developed a relationship with tiny algae living within them called zooxanthellae. The zoox capture sunlight which is converted into sugar for energy. The energy is then transferred to the coral polyp and provides the necessary nourishment. Coral also uses its intelligence to capture food in a very different way. At night, the coral polyps arise from their skeletons and use their stinging tentacles to capture tiny floating zooplankton nearby. Once the prey is captured, it is then pulled into the corals mouth and digested. This strategy therefor classifies coral as an animal. 

Lets get it on……

Like every animal, corals reproduce. But as you can tell by now, nothing about coral is “normal” or “boring”. Of course neither is their reproductive system. They can reproduce both asexually and sexually. Coral reproduces asexually by budding or fragmentation. When budding, the new polyps leave their parent polyps and form new colonies. When fragmentation occurs, an entire colony of coral breaks off to form a new colony. This method is used in many coral restoration efforts. But this also occurs due to storm or boat grounding.

When Coral reproduces sexually, both sperm and egg is released. For some corals, such as Elkhart and Boulder corals, one colony will produce sperm while another colony produces only eggs. For other coral species such as Brain coral, both sperm and eggs are produced at the same time. The coral larvae can be fertilized in either the body of the coral or in the surrounding water. This process is called spawning.

Coral spawning

Synchronization is key

Spawning can occur as a mass synchronized event which draws in many curious visitors. The larvae make their way to the surface of the ocean, which gives off a rather out of this world appearance. Then they make it to where the water meets the air. Following that they begin their final descent back to the ocean floor where they will settle and attach to a hard surface (that is, if they don’t get eaten first). Once attached, they begin their growth cycle and start the process all over again. It is not an easy life for coral, but their complexity and beauty is what keeps us wanting to know more. We still have much to learn about coral reefs and its inhabitants, but the facts that we have discovered shape our way for the future.

The Marvelous Moray Eel – 5 slithery snippets of fun

The Marvelous Moray Eel – 5 slithery snippets of fun

The moray eel is I believe one of the most misjudged creatures on the reef. “He was trying to bite me” is something I have heard from many a misinformed diver. When you explain how amazing they are and that they are just breathing it puts a whole new light on them. So, not that I need to convince you of their amazingness, but here are 5 amazing facts about the slithery moray eel.

green moray in quepos

Absolutely jawsome

Moray eels have 2 sets of jaws- one jaw is located further back and can come forward when trying to capture their prey. When the first set of closes on their prey the second one launches forward and grabs onto it and pulls it backwards into the throat. Moray eels can even eat SHARKS!! Moray eels are the only known species to use the second jaw as a weapon against their prey.

We only come out at night

Most of them are nocturnal. Eels can’t actually see too well so they rely on mainly smell to hunt because of this they don’t mind the darkness. The dark also provides more cover for the predators so their prey can’t see their attack!

They come in a large number of sizes

green moray in costa rica

The biggest moray eel can grow up to 9-10ft long which is bigger than a human and a bottlenose dolphin!! The smallest moray eel is the minute moray which only grows up to 14cm. Also, the giant moray eel can weigh at least 66lbs\30kg and the Abbotts moray can weigh only 30g.

How many species are there?

There are about 200 different types of species some of which are fresh water, salt water and brackish water (which is when the water is only slightly salty because the river water is mixing with seawater.)

The green moray eel is actually brown.

green moray in costa rica

The color comes from the mucus that makes them look green and also makes them really slimy so that they can slip into small cracks and holes without damaging their skin. They will stay in these small cracks and holes and wait for their prey.

Coral diary update – a busy start to November

Coral diary update – a busy start to November

Coral Coral Coral! We have been really busy working in our coral nurseries these last couple of weeks. Kat and our new intern Anni have cleaned and measured all our current coral fragments; we can report some great growth since the last data collection a month ago! 

coral fragmenting

Tool fundraiser update

We are thrilled that our “Tool Fundraiser” has allowed us to purchase a Gryphon AquaSaw! Thank you so much to our generous donors that made this purchase possible!
The Aquasaw is a diamond blade bandsaw, and is ideal for precision fragmenting of hard corals. This is going to totally change the way we can process corals to go out to the nurseries.

Working on our coral fragmenting in Costa Rica

Tuesday was for fragmenting!

On Tuesday we collected corals from wild donor colonies and brought them back to the Marina for processing. We used the new saw to “micro-fragment” the corals into smaller pieces to grow in the nurseries. The saw makes it much easier to cut the fragments into the perfect size and causes less stress to the corals. The coral fragments were then attached to concrete discs on which they will grow in our ocean nurseries for the next 6 month to a year. Cutting the corals into small fragments stimulates growth, we will also be monitoring and cleaning to give them and even better chance of survival. 

Marine conservation costa rica intern Anni

Coral planting here we come

On Wednesday, we are excited to announce that we took over 100 fragments of 3 coral species and planted them in our nurseries!!
If you would like to help fund our coral reef restoration work, our tool fundraiser is still going! We have several more tools that we need including an underwater drill, that will use for attaching the coral colonies grown in our nurseries back onto our local reef.

Pura Vida,

Kat

Coral Diaries – November begins

Coral Diaries – November begins

November to me, always brings a sense of anticipation. You can feel the summer coming to Costa Rica. In October, businesses take their annual vacation and boats get their bottoms painted November though is the start of the new season. 
Here at Marine Conservation Costa Rica we are also really excited to get back in the water!

Marine Biologist John Reinbott

Starting this season, we welcome John Reinbott to our crew. John is a marine biologist and is fresh from a year long internship at the Coral Restoration FoundationTM in Florida. John and I are going to be working closely together on our coral restoration project. This last week we have been looking at the nurseries. We have also been brainstorming lots of ways we can improve on our current methods…and it’s been fun!

coral conservation intern
Welcome Coral intern – Anna

We also welcome Anna, our new coral intern from Ecuador. She will be helping us with data collection, maintenance and cleaning. Also building new structures and community education.
Looks like it’s going to be an amazing season! 

If you are interested about what we get up to, you  can see on our daily goings on on our Instagram stories @marineconservationcostarica

It’s a tool appeal – Fundraising for our reefs

It’s a tool appeal – Fundraising for our reefs

coral gardening costa rica

With the new season underway we are excitedly continuing our week here in Costa Rica. We have already established a nursery here in Manuel Antonio and are working hard to expand it and the studies that we are doing on the corals. Our work is an essential part of restoring the reef and we are in the ocean regularly during the week. Whether it is fragmenting, planting in the nursery or completing health surveys on the surrounding areas, the work never stops.

As part of our expanding project we are in need of some special tools to help with the coral nursery. When fragmenting the corals, it is essential that it is done in an efficient and safe way, to ensure that they have the best chance of regrowing once we outplant them back onto the coral reef. Because of this we have a list of tools that would be extremely valuable in enabling us to do that. This includes a diamond band saw and an underwater powerdrill as well as other smaller tools. The total cost for these tools is $1500 and for this, we are turning to you. We are asking for donations to our tool project so that we can continue our work in the best way possible. It is for us and for our oceans.

If you are able to donate anything, please click on the link below and attach your details, so that we can thank all of the generous people that have helped us.

Thank you from all of the team at MCCR

The amazing Octopus – 5 fun facts

The amazing Octopus – 5 fun facts

octopus hiding under a rock
Photo by Laura Bori

Octopus are some of our favorite squishy invertebrates of the reef. With their flashing colors and unique behavior it is always fun to look them out and find them. Apart from the fact they have 8 legs, (unless you are Hank from Finding Dory), what else do you know about them? Here are 5 fun facts that firmly put them in the awesome animal category! 

Octopus have blue blood

Rather than the old boring red color, Octopus have blue blood. This is because of a protein that has copper atoms in it that binds itself to the same amount of oxygen atoms. This is completely different to our blood that has iron atoms in it. This protein is what allows the octopus to survive in very cold and very warm waters because it is transported to its vital tissues around their bodies

How many hearts?

An Octopus has 3 hearts of which 2 of them are pumping blood to the gills and the other one pumps blood to their organs. Octopus need more oxygen than other invertebrate species so their 3 hearts allows for them to have a steady flow of oxygen. Their copper based blood is not as good as iron based blood for transporting oxygen throughout the body so their three hearts compensate for that by pumping blood around at a higher pressure. Busy, busy, busy!

octopus on Manuel Antonio Reef
photo by Laura Bori

I thought a chicken had it bad..

Females usually lay around 200,000- 400,000 eggs which varies between species. Once laid, the female octopus guards the eggs until they are ready to hatch. After they hatch the females body essentially starts to destroy itself and the cells basically tear through her tissues and organs until she dies. 

They could join mensa,

Well, maybe not, but Octopus are considered the most intelligent creature of all invertebrates. They have the largest brain to body mass ratio of any of the invertebrates. There have been many studies on octopus through maze and problem solving that have shown that octopus have long and short term memory. Hey, they can even predict world cup games apparently!

They have been around for a long time

The oldest known fossil of an octopus is 296 million year old. It is called the Pohlsepia. Researchers have identified marks of 8 arms, 2 eyes and even the possibility of an ink sac on the fossil.

Dive Against Debris with Jack Johnson

Dive Against Debris with Jack Johnson

With the start of the new season rapidly approaching we are going to kick it off with one of our Dive against Debris. These are our fun underwater cleanups that are organized every other month. They help to combat the build up of trash underwater in our favorite dive sites in Manuel Antonio.

underwater clean up

For the first one of the season we thought we would kick it off with a big bang. As a special incentive to encourage our eco warriors, in addition to helping the ocean, you get the chance to win two Jack Johnson concert tickets in San Jose the following weekend. How awesome huh?

So…Jack Johnson?

In case you didn’t know, Jack Johnson is a singer-songwriter from the US who is active in environmentalism and sustainability. Very often with a focus on the world’s oceans. We are teaming up with his social action network “All at once” along with other non-profits in Costa Rica including Raising coral and Operation rich coast to be able to offer this opportunity to our eco warriors.

As well as our underwater cleanup there is a coastal clean up and an exciting music event. At each of the events there will be the chance to win a pair of tickets.

So, what do you need to do?

If you are an avid ocean diver and want to join us on our underwater clean up you sign up by sending us an email here. In addition you will need to pay a donation to our foundation. If you have all of your own dive gear the donation is $32 ($30 + 5% Paypal fee) if you need to rent dive gear it is $42 ($40 plus 5% paypal fee) You will then need to arrive at the Marina the morning of the 2nd November for the start of the event. Places are limited for the underwater clean up so signing up soon is advised.

If you are not a diver but still want to make a difference you can sign up for the coastal cleanup or join us for the event at Selinas. Both are that same day in the evening where there will be live music and the raffle to win the tickets.

We look forward to seeing you at the start of our exciting season.

Want to sign up? You can sign up here with your contact details and donation.

Cleaners of the Ocean

Cleaners of the Ocean

dive fro debris

Hello Ocean Lovers! Here at Marine Conservation Costa Rica, ocean cleanups are a common part of our monthly activities. Diving for Debris has been a well known and largely participated event. It has left divers feeling both accomplished and hopeful for a healthier underwater ecosystem.

We need the natural cleaners of the reef

But are we the only ones working to keep our ocean clean? If that were true, our reefs and the health of the sea would have been inevitably doomed long ago. No matter how much effort we as concerned humans have put in to “undoing” what the human race has already carelessly destroyed. Fortunately, there are other marine species who work full time jobs to filter and clean the ocean long before we were ever brought to the attention to do so. 

Invertebrate filter feeders

sponge and brittle star on the reef
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sponges are aquatic invertebrates that many divers take a moment to stop and admire. What you may not know is that they are not just interesting to look at. They also play an important role in the health of its surrounded area. Sponges filter large amounts of water and can produce up to three times the amount of oxygen they consume.

Algae attackers

parrot fish in Costa Rica

Parrotfish, otherwise known as a “keystone species”, spend the majority of their time feeding. They do this by using their beak-like mouths to scrape off algae and dead coral. If you listen closely, you can hear them doing so underwater. In addition, they excrete what they have consumed in which we call sand. Parrotfish can produce up to 320 kilograms of sand per year!

The Marine dentist

Cleaner shrimp are not just little crustaceans that are fun to hunt in tiny crevices. They are sometimes referred to as, and what I like to call them, “Marine Dentists”. These shrimp do a great service of performing rock dances and cleaning their predators teeth. Pretty brave souls if you ask me!

It is our responsibility to co-exist on this planet and take care of what nature has given us. We are all included in a chain and each species plays a vital role. These are only a select few marine species that consistently work hard to keep our oceans and our home both healthy and happy! We must continue to help our ocean friends by doing our part as well. 

6 easy ways to go Eco in your everyday life

6 easy ways to go Eco in your everyday life

As a conservation non-profit we are constantly looking at ways that we can make a difference in our amazing ocean and planet. Sometimes it seems like an endless battle to do something and almost overwhelming. However, there are some very simple and easy things that you can do to start being more conscious in your everyday life. Here are some suggestions to get started.

Lace up your trainers

walk don't drive

Super easy this one. Next time you think about jumping in the car, can you walk it? Even better, take the fur baby with you if you have one and both enjoy the fresh air. Less car time is less emissions which as we know is a big factor to climate change.

Find that reusable bottle and start using it

reusable water bottles

I think that every person at this point has a reusable bottle somewhere. Come on now. What does a bottled water company really sell? Plastic bottles not water. We don’t need anymore of those so let’s make a concerted effort to remember your bottle when you leave the house and bring it with you. Otherwise we end up with a ridiculous amount of reusable bottles as well which starts to defeat the purpose somewhat don’t you think?!

Eat less meat

eat more veggies

For those carnivores out there, that are tired of hearing about the perfect Vegan life, I get it. But, it does have a big effect on the environment whether it is deforestation or emissions. So, if you really can’t cut that hamburger out of your life, maybe try and do it slightly less and make sensible choices, as in buy local, and try and steer away from the giant factory farms.

Recycle

Yes, we know that only a small percentage of plastics get recycled, so the perfect solution is juts don’t buy it. But in many places around the world you are limited with your options so when you can, recycle what you do have. Here in Quepos we also have a scheme where some of the not so regularly recycled objects are able to be made into building blocks so everything is being used or reused. Check out you local area to see if there are any similar projects.

Hang it out to dry

Unless you are in downpour rainy season you can use a drier less and utilize the wind. Less energy consumption and less of a carbon footprint. Whats not to like? Hang out your clothes and get some breezy freshness on them!

Use eco friendly cleaning products

Everything that we use in water ends up in our oceans and rivers including things that can be harmful to wildlife. Whether it is your laundry detergent or your shampoo it can all have an effect. So why not make a more conscious decision about what you are putting into the water. There are more options for organic and biodegradable cleaning products now as well which won’t have a negative effect on the wildlife. I have found that I am definitely reading the label on what I am using now, I just wish more of them steered away from plastic. Its a start though!

eco friendly laundry detergent

So with these simple steps you can make a positive start to a more eco aware life! No excuses, get started!