Central American Dome Hope Spot Expedition Underway
January 20, 2014
This week, MarViva and Mission Blue are launching a film expedition with Dr. Sylvia Earle to highlight our Central American Dome Hope Spot. Partners supporting the expedition are LightHawk, The Baum Foundation, Bula Bula and National Geographic. The ecological and commercial value of the Dome’s resources will be documented to raise awareness and support for the protection of its species and habitats.
“The term dome refers to an oceanographic feature that results from cold, deep ocean water rising near the surface,” says Lance Morgan of The Marine Conservation Institute.
“The water itself doesn’t dome, but a cold water band shaped like a dome comes up from the bottom. As this nutrient-rich water enters depths where sunlight can penetrate it unleashes enormous plankton blooms, fueling the entire ecosystem. In turn this supports a food web of krill, pelagic fishes and squids, predatory tunas, seabirds, and marine mammals. This highly productive region of the eastern tropical Pacific is home to abundant marine life, including critically endangered leatherback sea turtles and blue whales.”
This Central American Dome Expedition will explore and document the migration route of the endangered leatherback turtle, which leaves the protection of the shore along the Pacific coastline to feed on the bounty that exists in this high seas Hope Spot.
Mission Blue’s partner, MarViva works tirelessly with governments in the region to educate leaders about the connections between the coastal areas and the open ocean, and to promote sustainable management solutions, vital for the conservation of leatherbacks and other species. MarViva’s vision is for a “biodiverse and healthy Eastern Tropical Pacific that facilitates the wellbeing of present and future generations.”
Hear why the Central American Dome is so important from Dr. Earle herself.
In 2013, Dr. Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue declared The Central American Dome as a “Hope Spot,” designating it as a special area critical to the health of the ocean. Some Hope Spots are protected, while others, such as the Central American Dome, need to be safeguarded with laws ensuring their sustainable use.
The Central American Dome is a site of global importance for one of the most iconic marine creatures, the critically endangered leatherback turtle. The Dome provides an important migration route and foraging area for adult turtles, as well as critical habitat for hatchlings leaving their nesting beaches in Central America. Leatherback populations in the Eastern Pacific were reduced by 90% over the past two decades, mainly due to unsustainable egg harvesting and fisheries by-catch.
The Central American Dome attracts large schools of fish, including tuna, which makes this a prime target for large international fishing fleets, as well as smaller recreational sport fishing businesses. A careful balance must be struck between taking advantage of this economic resource and preserving the biodiversity of the hope spot for future generations.
The proximity of the Panama Canal with its heavy vessel traffic calls for a thorough examination of ship routes through the Dome. Just as leatherbacks and blue whales transit this abundant high seas area, so do supertankers and cargo ships. It is critical that measures be taken to avoid hazards such as ship strikes and acoustic disturbances.
Mission Blue and MarViva Foundation will co-produce a short video that will take viewers on a journey to learn about the Central American Dome (CAD) and why sustainable management of this High Seas Hope Spot is so important for the region.
Featured Photo: © MarViva Foundation