History

The Expedition Begins


Panama’s Coiba National Park, part of a major migration route for marine animals in the Tropical Eastern Pacific--from the Galapagos to Costa Rica’s Cocos Islands-- remains largely unexplored. From Mar. 4-10, Mission Blue, founded by Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, environmental advocate and National Geographic ‘Explorer In Residence’, will explore Hannibal Bank, the top of an undersea mountain near Coiba Island.

Mission Blue aims to use films, expeditions, the web and new submarines to create a campaign that ignites public support for a global network of marine protected areas—Hope Spots--large enough to save the blue heart of the planet.

Scientists from the Smithsonian and from Panama’s government research institute, INDICASAT-AIP, as well as representatives of Panama’s Environmental Authority, ANAM and Marine Resources Authority, ARAP join the expedition. Follow our web posts and the links on this page for daily updates from the expedition.

News About the Expedition
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Where are the fish?
 
Aboard the DeepSee
 
Back on land

It is the job of a research institute to ask questions. This week’s Mission Blue expedition to Coiba is the first opportunity that we have ever had to ask what ‘s on the sea floor on Coiba’s Hannibal Bank—the top of an undersea mountain--an exciting chance to learn more about a habitat that usually lies out of reach.

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STRI staff scientist Héctor Guzmán is thrilled to explore the sea floor along Panama’s Hannibal Bank for the first time ever in the submersible DeepSee.  One of the first dives of this sea-floor mapping expedition was made by Hector and Joan Siedenburg, STRI friend and deep-sea exploration enthusiast.   Their dive was...

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After twelve dives in the submersible DeepSea to explore Coiba’s Hannibal Bank at depths from 60 to 340 meters and two additional compression dives to 50 meters to observe fish gathering in the shallowest habitats, STRI’s Hector Guzman and colleagues are back on land, beginning to evaluate the results...

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Héctor Guzmán
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Guzmán's Current Research
 
Sharks return to Coiba National Park
 
Corals & New Species

A passionately curious scientist and outspoken advocate for the health of marine ecosystems, staff scientist Héctor Guzmán and colleagues will likely add to their list of more than 15 new species of corals from this area. Such new knowledge contributed to Coiba’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

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  In spite of their reputation as man’s enemy, sharks generally feed on starfish, sea urchins and other animals, and rarely attack and kill human beings.  Unsustainable fishing practices such as the capture of sharks for their fins – or finning - have eliminated nearly 90% of these great predators in some marine ecosystems...

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  Hector Guzmán surveys the sea floor aboard the DeepSee submersible  recording all that lies below on video. Diving teams collect samples with permission from Panamanian authorities. Previously, Guzmán and colleagues discovered 15 new coral species. New knowledge about animals unique to Hannibal Banks will contribute to biodiversity protection.

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Coiba
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Marine Corridor
 
BioProspecting
 
Coiba Management Plan

The Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape includes coastal, island and offshore habitats from Costa Rica to Ecuador.  Cold, nutrient rich waters and warm tropical environments give rise to high biological diversity, species that occur nowhere else in the world, and concentrations of marine life. Relatively little scientific information is available about important biological life support processes in this region.

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  New knowledge about undersea life leads to the discovery of new drugs to treat cancer and a suite of tropical diseases. Researchers from Panama’s government research institute, INDICASAT, and the University of Panama will follow a discovery process pioneered in Coiba National Park by the Panama International Cooperative Biodiversity Group, which has discovered more than 45 chemicals to date.

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On June 23, 2009, Juan Mate, STRI's Scientific Advisor for Marine and Coastal Affairs, presented the management plan for Coiba National Park to Panama's Natural Resources Authority, ANAM. Mate coordinated a planning team composed of Coiba stakeholders who worked closely with ANAM's Director's Council and Scientific Committee to draft the plan.

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STRI
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STRI - Panama
 
Fish App on iTunes
 
Marine Scientists at STRI

Marine research at STRI began fifty years ago, in 1961, with the first publication on sibling species of fish from both oceans. Since then, the productivity of the marine program has experienced exponential growth with the operation of several marine stations on both coasts of Panama. Currently, STRI runs two...

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  STRI staff scientist, D. Ross Robertson has released the first, completely portable, bilingual species identification guide for the Tropical Eastern Pacific as a free iPhone application. Unique fish-finding and list-making tools provide powerful resources for scientists, divers and tour guides.

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  STRI has about 40 permanent staff scientists and dozens of postdoctoral fellows and associates, and hosts about 900 visiting scientists and students each year. Although based in Panama, STRI scientists are working in over 40 tropical countries around the world.

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