Promoting the Costa Rica Thermal Dome Initiative

Since 2012 MarViva Foundation has been promoting the Costa Rica Thermal Dome Initiative to ensure its sustainability. The initiative focuses efforts on the Dome´s core area located in areas beyond national jurisdiction. MarViva seeks to consolidate commitment from key players to create synergy and join forces that contribute towards the conservation of this area of great socioeconomic and ecological value in the Central American region.

Promotion of conservation and sustainable management actions, spatial planning of human activities, and new governance schemes in international waters within the Dome´s core area could prevent and mitigate threats faced by associated marine resources.

The Costa Rica Thermal Dome has been promoted with various actors through diverse processes in regional and international fora, including the following.


Papagayo’s upwelling system and adjacent areas EBSA

Multiple United Nations Agencies have developed area-based management tools, such as the Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA) developed by the Convention on Biological Diversity. These areas can be designated within Exclusive Economic Zones of States, as well as in areas beyond national jurisdiction (beyond 200 nautical miles).

To be designated an EBSA, the identified area must comply with certain pre-established criteria.

Criteria to identify an EBSA1

1.       Unique or rare area

2.       Special importance for determined species’ life cycles

3.       Important for species or habitats that are threatened, in danger or in decline

4.       Vulnerable, fragile, sensitive or of slow recovery

5.       Biological productivity

6.       Biological diversity

 7.      Naturalness


Within this context, in 2010 a Regional Workshop process began on a global level to describe potential EBSAs (decision X/29).2 At the Eastern Tropical and Temperate Pacific Regional Workshop (Galapagos Islands, 2012), the Papagayo Upwelling System and Adjacent Areas, proposed by MarViva Foundation and supported by the Costa Rican Government, was recognized as a potential EBSA.

Later, at the 12th Conference of the Parties of the CBD (South Korea, 2014) a group of EBSAs was designated worldwide, amongst those the Papagayo Upwelling System and Adjacent Areas, which includes part of the Costa Rica Thermal Dome.


Figure 5. Papagayo Upwelling System and Adjacent Areas EBSA.




This recognition represents a valuable opportunity to promote future technical and financial investment in the Costa Rica Thermal Dome, as well as the creation and implementation of a governance scheme that guarantees the conservation and sustainable management of marine resources in this important region.

 Submarinas Avi Kapfer263


The Dome and the Central American Commission on Environment and Development

In 2013, with financial aid from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, MarViva initiated a process of international discussion to analyze the inter-sectorial context of the Dome, including scientific organizations, multilateral development agencies, NGOs, private sector, regional fishing organizations and Central American governmental agencies. In July of that same year, the Costa Rica Thermal Dome initiative was presented at the LI Ordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (Spanish acronym CCAD). The relevance of this initiative for the region was highlighted and the CCAD manifested interest in pursuing greater understanding of this significant oceanic region and analyzing its inclusion in the Regional Marine Agenda.

The Regional Environmental Strategy of 2015-2020 established by the CCAD recognizes the importance of the conservation and participatory sustainable management of coastal marine resources; recovery of species and vulnerable ecosystems; contribution to marine spatial planning processes; and promotion of environmental services assessments as strategic actions. All of which are interrelated and have the capacity to maximize the Costa Rica Thermal Dome initiative.

Emphasis must be given to the fact that promotion and execution of regional scale strategies and actions is key to consolidating marine migratory species conservation, connectivity amongst different ecosystems, and sustainability of shared marine resources among Central American countries.


Recognition of the CRTD as a ‘Hope Spot’

Mission Blue promotes the conservation of Hope Spots, areas that include ecosystems and species of great worth, which are carbon sinks, generate oxygen and are beneficial for countries’ economies.

Mission Blue declared the CRTD as a Hope Spot in October 2013, and calls for consciousness, attention and action to the international community regarding the Dome’s relevance as a unique oceanic habitat and critical area for vulnerable species in danger of extinction and of commercial interest.




Which actions could influence the conservation and management of the Costa Rican Thermal Dome?

Coordinated actions within the Regional Political framework of the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD), the Central American Isthmus Fishing and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA), and the Central American Commission on Maritime Transportation (COCATRAM) are key to promoting management schemes and regional coordination, as well as conservation and sustainable use of marine resources strategies for the Costa Rica Thermal Dome region.

Likewise, the marine area based management tools developed by various National Agencies such as the EBSAs of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), or the Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) could generate positive impacts on conservation strategies for the Dome region.

The Costa Rica Thermal Dome initiative represents an opportunity to consolidate dialogue among decision makers, governmental officials, international agency representatives, marine resource users, civil society and other key players for promoting a governance scheme that would benefit species that depend on this valuable ecosystem and ensure sustainability of economic activities that benefit from the Dome.



1 Convenio CBD. 9th CoP, Bonn, 19–30 Mayo 2008. (on line):

2 Convenio CBD. CoP 10, Decisión X/29 sobre biodiversidad marina y costera. (on line):