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.

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!

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.

Meet team member JD

Meet team member JD

JD marine biologist costa rica

With the business of the holiday season behind us now, we here at Marine Conservation Costa Rica have hit the ground running as we dive into 2020 with plenty of plans to continue our coral restoration work. One of the biggest shifts that we have seen as we enter this new year is our overall increase in both intern and volunteer activity. Especially with the addition of our newest staff member, JD.

This “crazy coral kid” will be working with us through September and has already brought a bunch of new ideas and positive changes to our organization. We decided to sit down with JD the other day to catch up with him and learn a bit more about his background with marine science/coral conservation. 

Happy underwater with the coral

Hi JD!

“Growing up I was always obsessed with the ocean. The running joke with the family is that if a trip wasn’t close to the beach or didn’t have an aquarium that I could visit, I didn’t want to go and would make it extremely well-known. I always thought corals were cool but never really took the time to appreciate them.

In fact, it wasn’t until a travel course to Belize that focused on coral biology during my junior year of college where I actually realized how truly fascinating these tiny animals are and the numerous roles they place for both us as human beings as well as the countless marine animals we all love so much. Everyone was excited to swim with sharks, rays, and turtles while I was too busy focusing on getting up close and personal with every single polyp that called the waters of Ambergris Caye their home.

As tacky as it sounds, every time I dive and get to see healthy coral in its natural habitat I get this feeling of pure happiness, almost like I’m a kid again walking into an aquarium and falling in love with the ocean for the very first time. I really want to make sure everyone has the chance to experience that too.’’

– JD Reinbott

Q: What is your background with marine science/coral biology? 

cutting coral with marine conservation costa rica

I studied Marine Science as well as Aquaculture/Aquarium Science at the University of New England in Biddeford, ME and to be totally honest bounced around within the field itself. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to focus on post graduation and was scared to make the wrong choice. It wasn’t until I randomly enrolled in a coral biology course with a field work trip to Belize where I quickly fell head over heels for coral and realized this is where I belong.

Shortly after the trip I became a certified diver and found myself traveling down to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve where I lived on a remote dive base for two months. During that time I collected metrics on things like coral population abundance, disease, bleaching, predation and overall reef composition.

This only furthered my passion for reef systems and made me want to learn more. Fast forward a year and I was now an intern at the Coral Restoration Foundation, the world’s largest coral restoration non-profit organization.

During my time I learned the various methods used to cultivate acroporid corals via in-situ nurseries and worked alongside the heads of both the restoration and science departments. It’s pretty cool to be able to say that I returned over 1,500 coral fragments back to the Florida Reef Tract during my time with CRF. Soon after I heard about the chance to move to Costa Rica and just like that I’m here! 

Q: What is your role with MCCR? 

I love coral

I would say that my primary role is to help Kat and Geo continue all the work that we are currently doing (growing coral, nursery maintenance, public outreach, underwater cleanups, etc). Also playing around with a bunch of new ideas to further expand our programs. With MCCR being so new, there is a lot of wiggle room within the organization itself. This subsequently means that no day is the same. Sometimes I’m on land figuring out new ways to compile all of our data and microfragging corals. Other days I’m building new nursery structures and creating new educational presentations.

When I throw on a BCD and a pair of fins it’s a bit of a different story. Water days can consist of anything from harvesting coral to installing new structures to scoping out new nursery locations. It could also be performing benthic reef surveys. If there is ever a day someone finds me without a coral frag in my hand, it’s probably a day where I’m working as an instructor with Oceans Unlimited Scuba Diving & Go Pro Costa Rica. The Pura Vida lifestyle has been a bit of an adjustment with just a few things to do but I love every moment of it. 

Q: What are you most excited about? 

Honestly just to get the chance to watch this new organization develop further and to also bring all of my previous coral restoration knowledge and experience to help with such expansion. Getting to look back at everything that we have accomplished a year from now is going to be such an amazing experience and I cannot wait to see what is to come. Also getting to dive in a new ocean and work with new species of coral sounds pretty cool too. 

Q: What is your favorite marine animal? 

For anyone who knows me, this answer is a given. 110% an octopus. They are literally the strangest creatures that I have ever seen underwater and yet also the most unique and eye-catching (that is if you are lucky enough to spot them). Every single time I see one underwater, I audibly scream out of pure joy. I will only continue to swim when my dive buddy comes over and begrudgingly drags me away (literally ask anyone who has ever gone diving with me if you don’t believe me).

scuba diving in costa rica

I would honestly just love to see what happens on a day to day basis within their lives, but also the one thing that always gets me is the fact that they HAVE EIGHT ARMS. LIKE COME ON HOW COOL IS THAT YOU COULD EAT AN ENTIRE PIZZA AT ONCE.