Shark Land: Why a tiny island off the coast of Costa Rica is a UNESCO World Heritage site


Cocos Island is a tiny prominence in the Pacific Ocean more than 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica.

The waters surrounding the island are home to one of the greatest concentrations of marine predators on the planet. It’s one of the only places in the world where congregations of hundreds of hammerhead sharks can still be seen. Cocos forms part of an important migration corridor stretching down to Malpelo and on to the Galapagos Islands. Hundreds of species travel this underwater highway including several different species of whales.

Thanks to its remoteness and the creation of an oceanic sanctuary, Cocos Island is a relatively healthy spot in the ocean, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fusion partnered with oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s non-profit, Mission Blue, and the actor Adrian Grenier on an expedition to the island to learn more about the health of its ecosystem.

We found that Cocos has not escaped the negative forces that are disrupting the world’s oceanic ecosystems. Even with its ‘protected’ status, Cocos is still plagued by illegal fishing and lack of enforcement of the laws. Even pollution, clumps of plastic and other detritus, can be seen in this remote area. If the Costa Rican government doesn’t take the protection of the island seriously the world is at risk of losing this treasure forever.

In honor of World Oceans Day, we’re asking you to take one step—big or small—toward saving your ocean.