The ocean is one, but there are different legal regimens applicable to marine areas within and beyond the jurisdiction of States. This differentiation, though functional for regulation and administration of marine resources, usually does not respond to conditions of species’ and ecosystems that interconnect in a single ocean.
In the case of the Costa Rica Thermal Dome, multiple species that benefit from this high seas habitat move close to the coasts and sustain multiple economic activities. For example, in 2009 the fishing industry in Central America generated approximately $750 million for economies within the region, thus benefitting close to 450,000 people.1
Another important example worth mentioning is tourism related to species that use the Dome. Sea turtle nesting generated approximately $2,113,176 in 2004 for tour operators and related businesses close to Las Baulas Marine National Park in Costa Rica.2
Additionally, whale and dolphin watching is a growing industry in the region that produces important economic income in coastal communities. Sport fishing is another activity of great importance in the Central American region. For example, in Costa Rica it generated close to $599 million in 2008 (2.13% of the GDP for that year)3and in Panama it generated approximately $170.4 million in total sales in 2013.4 Marine species that benefit this industry use high seas habitats during certain stages in their lifetime, then getting close to our coasts. Hence the need to consider the connectivity within these ecosystems to guarantee ecological sustainability of these greatly valued oceanic regions.
Finally, in relation to maritime transportation it should be point out that approximately 90% of world trade by volume is transported at sea. The Costa Rica Thermal Dome is located in a crucially important route for world maritime transportation as maritime trade from North Asia and the West Coast of North America crosses the Dome on route to the Panama Canal.
Figure 12. Central American maritime transportation intensity.
In this context, environmental risks towards vulnerable ecosystems include operational discharges, intentional or accidental contamination, physical damages to marine habitats or organisms and collisions with marine mammals just to name a few threats to the Dome’s marine landscape.