Abstract

Introduction: Scientific information is often needed to guide management decisions, but marine protected areas usually lack such information. Further, these protected areas face the challenge of protecting highly-mobile pelagic species that move between protected areas in different countries and across fishing zones. In general, the dissociation that commonly exists between academic and conservation groups, which work under different objectives and reward systems, serves as an obstacle for producing the information that is needed by wildlife managers. This limitation is further enhanced in oceanic islands, such as Isla del Coco because of their mere remoteness, a condition that dramatically increases the economic and operational costs for doing research. Objective: To illustrate the challenge of generating useful scientific information for conservation decision making in protected areas, using Isla del Coco National Park in Costa Rica as a case study, and to propose possible solutions. Results: In order to produce the scientific information that these areas require, it is necessary to: i) distinguish between biologically relevant information, and information required for decision-making, ii) generate information about the threats to biodiversity, even in the absence of information about the species themselves, iii) establish clear goals and objectives for monitoring plans, and iv) build strong links between two types of groups: those that work from mainland and those that operate offshore; this includes working alongside fishing vessels. Conclusions: It will be a great challenge to articulate such relationships between groups, but this option seems more viable (in terms of associated logistic and economical costs) than attempting to collect the required data from an isolated academic platform. Also, this articulation appears to be the only way of generating information that is crucial for stock management, such as the accurate characterization of the fishing activity.

Keywords: conservation research, biodiversity threats, biological monitoring, conservation politics, fishing overexploitation, pelagic species.