Sustainable Fishing: Balancing Livelihoods and Conservation

Sustainable Fishing: Balancing Livelihoods and Conservation

Sustainable Fishing:

Balancing Livelihoods and Marine Conservation in Costa Rica 

What is Sustainable Fishing?

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvia Earle

Why is it so Important?

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

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

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

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

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

113 million people globally are employed by fisheries

97% of employment from fisheries are in developing countries

How Do We Achieve Sustainable Fishing?

Government Cooperation

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

Fishery Management

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


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

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

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

Best Choice

Mahi-Mahi/Dorado: Reproduces quickly

Snapper: Reproduces quickly and grows fast


Alternative Options

Yellowfin Tuna: Large in size

Common & Black Snook: Adaptable

Wahoo: High reproductive rate and fast growth rate


Octopus: Ethically questionable due to their intelligence

Lobster: Overfished due to consumer demand

Tilapia: Questionable farming methods using chemicals

Swordfish: High levels of mercury

Marlin: Often caught by bycatch

Shark: Unsustainably fished


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

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

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

Want to get involved ?

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

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Guardians of the Sea: Marine Conservation Internships

Guardians of the Sea: Marine Conservation Internships

Guardians of the Sea:

How Marine Conservation Interns Make a Difference

Why is Marine Conservation so Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Coral Restoration Internship:

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

Diving Volunteer Program:

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

Eco Divemaster Program:

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

Non-Diving Internship:

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

What Would I Be Doing?

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

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

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

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

What Are We Currently Working On?

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

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

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

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

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

By Mayella Bignell

Want to get involved ?

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

Apply Now

5 Funtastic Coral facts

5 Funtastic Coral facts

The Wonders of Coral Reefs: Unveiling 5 Fascinating Facts

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

Coral in Costa rica

Fact 1: Coral Reefs - Not Just Pretty Faces

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

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

Fact 2: Aquatic Custodians of Cleanliness

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

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

Pavona gigantea - Corals of Costa Rica

Fact 3: Sun-Seeking Beach Bums of the Sea

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

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

Fact 4: Shore Defenders and Wave Tamers

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

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

coral in Costa Rica

Fact 5: Vulnerability and Conservation

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

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

Want to get involved ?

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

About the Author

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

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

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My Experience as a Marine Conservation Intern

My Experience as a Marine Conservation Intern

My Experience as a Marine Conservation Intern

social media intern

Hi I’m Mary, I’m 24 years old and I came over from South Australia after finishing a bachelor of science degree majoring in ecotourism.

I joined the coral reef restoration internship for four weeks because I was interested to learn more about restoration ecology and particularly how volunteer tourism can be employed to enhance restoration and conservation of the marine environment.

I also wanted to gain experience scuba diving and decided this internship would be a perfect fit for me given my previous experience and time availability as it provided good balance between learning more about diving and learning about the ecology of the reef and science behind restoration. 

What I did...

During my time with MCCR I learned about coral reef ecology and survey techniques, reef restoration, octopus awareness, nudibranch ecology, sponge ecology and fish identification, completing 4 PADI specialty courses.

From the first day Kat was incredibly welcoming and reassured me they could be flexible in adjusting to my schedule and interests to ensure I was getting the most out of my experience. The academics of the internship were taught by herself and Clem, both of whom have a lot of knowledge and experience in the field and the classes were delivered as more of an open discussion than a standard lecture.

Final Thoughts

Generally on the weekdays I would spend half a day diving and working through skills taught in class, the other half of the day was either spent working through the academics or I had free to explore the area or attend Spanish classes in Quepos.

I am very grateful for the time I spent with MCCR, I achieved the goals I set out with and now feel much more confident with my skills as a diver than I did before coming here.

I look forward to seeing their future projects and ongoing efforts to promote marine conservation!

Want to get involved ?

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

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Sustainable Tourists: The new way to Travel

Sustainable Tourists: The new way to Travel

How to be a Sustainable Tourist 


social media intern

If you’re interested in joining us in Costa Rica or elsewhere in the world, there are ways you can engage in tourism in a sustainable way! We’ll look at ways to travel sustainably and contribute to society while doing so in this article. 

Being a sustainable traveller is more important than ever in a world where the effects of tourism are becoming more and more obvious. As tourists, it is our duty to maintain the environment, respect native customs, and make a good impact on the places we visit. The future lies in sustainable tourism, which will prevent our wanderlust from harming the environment and its inhabitants. 

Research and Plan Mindfully

Planning your trip is the first step towards becoming a sustainable traveler. Do extensive research on your visit, taking into account any unique cultural or environmental aspects. Find out about local eco-friendly accommodations, sustainable tourism programs, and ethical tour operators. Make an attempt to comprehend the regional traditions and customs so that you can interact with respect and compassion.

Choose Eco-friendly Accommodation

Choose eco-friendly lodgings like eco-lodges, boutique hotels, or resorts that have been certified as sustainable. These businesses frequently engage in eco-friendly measures like conserving energy and water, giving back to the neighbourhood, and cutting trash. By staying at such establishments, you reduce your carbon footprint and inspire other companies to implement sustainable practices.

Travel light and minimise waste

When packing for your trip, consider the environmental impact of your luggage. To reduce the consumption of single-use plastics, choose reusable, eco-friendly items like water bottles, shopping bags, and toiletries containers. In order to prevent having to make unneeded purchases after you arrive, make sure to pack clothing for a variety of weather conditions. Travel waste reduction has a huge impact on sustainable tourism.

Respect local cultures

Sustainable tourism must be sensitive to cultural differences. The communities you visit have their own traditions, customs, and social mores; learn about them and respect them. Wear acceptable clothing, get consent before snapping pictures of people or their property, and support local artisans and businesses. Engage in cultural exchange, but do so with humility and respect.

Conserve resources

Choose responsible tours

One of the simplest ways to be a sustainable tourist is by conserving resources. Use water and electricity sparingly, and request that towels and linens be changed only when necessary to reduce laundry loads. Avoid supporting the illegal wildlife trade or buying products made from endangered species. Participate in moral wildlife interactions and aid in the preservation of sanctuaries.

When selecting tourism tours, it’s crucial to prioritize ethical options that align with your values. Look for tour operators and experiences that prioritize sustainability, respect for local communities, and environmental responsibility. Ethical tourism tours should offer opportunities for authentic cultural exchanges, adhere to responsible wildlife interactions, and support local economies. Verify if the tour operators have certifications or affiliations with reputable sustainable tourism organizations.

Participate in responsible Voluntourism

If you’re interested in voluntourism, research opportunities thoroughly and ensure they align with the community’s needs and your skills. Volunteering can be a rewarding way to give back, but it should be done with a focus on long-term benefits rather than just fleeting experiences.

Becoming a sustainable tourist is not just an individual choice; it’s a collective responsibility. By adopting eco-friendly practices, respecting local cultures, and supporting sustainable initiatives, we can reduce the negative impact of travel on the environment and communities. Sustainable tourism benefits everyone, ensuring that the destinations we love remain vibrant and beautiful for future generations to explore and enjoy. So, pack your ethical mindset along with your suitcase, and be a responsible traveller on your next adventure.

Want to get involved ?

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

Apply Now