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Join the Expedition: Scientists and Scuba Divers Help Protect Cocos Island’s Marine Life

Feb. 28/13

Twice each year, I make the 36-hour voyage to Cocos Island, 350 miles from the Costa Rican mainland, to tag hammerhead sharks and sea turtles. This journey is well-worth the effort - Jacques Cousteau described Cocos Island as the most beautiful island in the world, and I wholeheartedly agree!

Come aboard the expedition as active citizen scientists to study one of the most biologically-rich ocean ecosystems left on the planet

Todd Steiner, Biologist and Executive Director, Turtle Island Restoration Network
Now, I am pleased that Turtle Island Restoration Network is partnering with Project AWARE to create a powerful link between divers and efforts to conserve ocean wildlife and wild places. Now, AWARE divers will have new opportunities to come aboard the expedition as active citizen scientists to study one of the most biologically-rich ocean ecosystems left on the planet. 

In April, I invite AWARE divers to join me – for 10 days aboard the well-appointed MV Argo - for 3-4 research dives daily at one of the world’s top remaining sites for large pelagic sharks, sea turtles and an array of other species. Together, we’ll view, tag and monitor hammerhead sharks and sea turtles, while enjoying one of the nicest live-aboard vessels in the region. Participants can also join the exclusive group of folks utilizing UnderSea Hunter’s deep sea submersible.

The deep reefs are just one of Cocos Island’s wonders. Hundreds of scalloped hammerhead sharks spend their days being “cleaned” by the butterfly and angelfish that pick parasites from around their gills. Whitetip reef sharks are everywhere-- resting on the sand or hunting in packs in the shallow coral reefs at night. Marbled and eagle rays glide by gracefully, and giant whale sharks are seen on almost every expedition. Schools of large jacks numbering in the tens of thousands are not uncommon.

Cocos’ abundant marine wildlife has made the region a magnet for scientists and a top “bucket list” destination for scuba enthusiasts. Yet, despite its designation as a Costa Rican National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the waters of Cocos Island face threats from overfishing and climate change that could unravel the unique mix of currents that make the place such a rich and diverse ecosystem.

To help monitor what’s happening in the reserve, Turtle Island is partnering with Project AWARE to enlist scuba diving community members as citizen-scientist assistants to tag and monitor turtles, tag sharks, take photographs and record data. We’re helping to ensure this place will remain worthy of Cousteau-like praise for generations to come.  

Right now, we are offering Project AWARE members a $500 discount off the usual cost of the trip.  And your costs may be tax-deductible. Sign up now to become a volunteer research assistant on the upcoming April and November Cocos Island expeditions, visit: www.SeaTurtles.org/Expeditions.  Spaces are filling fast, so please contact us today about this unique opportunity.