Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Virtual Discovery Lecture Series

Friday, April 1, 2022
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Turning the tide for sharks and rays in Costa Rica

By Dr. Mario Espinoza, Universidad de Costa Rica

Evaluating the status of shark and ray populations is important given the rapid rate at which some species are declining. Large sharks are capable of structuring marine food webs by regulating prey dynamics and/or modifying their behavior; consequently, removing sharks from the oceans could have significant ecological consequences such as the loss of biodiversity, ecosystem function and health. In Costa Rica (Central America), the status of shark and ray populations is poorly known despite many species (55%) are already threatened with extinction, mainly due to high fishing levels and habitat degradation. Some studies have already reported population declines of up to 60% in the Pacific, even at remote protected areas such as Cocos Island.

Implementing methods to effectively assess the population of threatened species is crucial to turn the tide for sharks and rays in data-poor countries such as Costa Rica. Dr. Mario Espinoza will discuss how he is combining multiple methods, including remote underwater video stations, acoustic telemetry, environmental DNA (eDNA), local ecological knowledge, and stable isotopes to generate fast and reliable data that can be used to assess the status of threatened shark and ray species, identify critical habitats for sharks and rays in Costa Rica, and develop more effective management and conservation approaches.

Dr. Mario Espinoza is a marine biologist from Costa Rica, with a background in behavioral ecology, fisheries management, and conservation. He has a Bachelorís degree in Biology from Universidad de Costa Rica, a Masters in Marine Biology from California State University in Long Beach and a PhD in Marine Sciences from James Cook University in Australia. Dr. Espinoza started a full-time position as a professor and researcher at Universidad de Costa Rica in 2015. He is also a Regional Vice-Chair from the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG), and an Advisor Committee member from the CMS-Sharks (Convention of Migratory Species).



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