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Adaptation of vulnerable coastal communities facing the imminent threats of climate change in the area of Paquera, Puntarenas

Costa Rica

The province of Puntarenas borders the Gulf of Nicoya (GN). The Gulf of Nicoya is one of the most productive gulfs in the world. It is subject to stark variations of temperature and salinity, primarily during the rainy season. These variations, especially in salinity, are responsible for the high productivity, and the distribution of marine resources in the gulf.

The high productivity makes the Gulf of Nicoya a fundamental piece of the local and national economy. It provides irreplaceable environmental services such as, natural refuge, fish nursery, nesting, and reproduction site for myriad marine species of ecological interest (dolphins, white-tip sharks, sea turtles, and rays), and commercial interest (sea-bass, corvine, shrimp, and mussels). The gulf´s fisheries, tourism, ports, and aquaculture and sea-salt production potential provide sources of food and employment for the surrounding coastal communities.

The coastal communities around the GN are marked by a sharp contrast of a minority of large-scale landowners and real-estate developers, and a vast majority of rural tourism, micro-entrepreneurs, and mainly artisanal fishers. This majority is comprised of about 15,000 families dedicated to artisanal fishing. Average income for these families is around $200 a month, inferior to the national minimum wage. Poverty conditions in coastal areas are caused by low education levels and limited access to alternative production activities.

The abundant natural resources, contrast with the economic situation of the communities. The gulf offers food sources, recreation, and employment in different industries, including artisanal fishing and tourism. However, over extraction threatens these resources. This weakens marine and coastal ecosystems putting at risk their ability to recover and continue to provide environmental services in the medium and long term. In addition, the area is under pressure by the impacts of climate change, including ocean acidification, floods, changes in migratory routes, sea-level rise, and rising ocean temperatures. This affects subsistence activities and income generation in the coastal communities. 

MarViva Foundation (MarViva) along different partners has been working on management strategies and environmental conservation in the GN since 2010. MarViva has focused efforts on capacity building and increasing quality of life for vulnerable communities in the area. 

Starting in 2016, MarViva, with help from Fundecooperación´s Adaptation Fund continued working with coastal communities through the project “Adaptation of vulnerable coastal communities facing the imminent threats of climate change in the area of Paquera, Puntarenas”. The project identified areas with high risk of climate change impact, in support of national efforts towards environmental sustainability and long-term welfare of vulnerable communities. MarViva allied itself with a local fisher association ASPARMAR comprised of 5 different community groups and at least 60 artisanal fishers. 

From January 2016 through June 2018, MarViva carried-out the project contributing to strengthen coastal community and fisheries resilience in the Responsible Fishing Area of Paquera-Tambor (AMPR Paquera-Tambor) vulnerable to climate change. The project also contributed to strengthening coastal communities, institutions, and stakeholders in climatic change adaptation. Finally, MarViva worked to raised awareness and strengthen stakeholders´ (decision makers and marine resource users) capacity to incorporate climate change adaptation in planning and conservation programs. 

Community Resilience

Coastal community and fisheries resilience was strengthened through identification of coastal and marine habitats of importance to the communities. This resulted in the creation of an updated land-use map, including mangroves. Community members were trained in coastal dynamics monitoring, to register changes through time. The monitoring activities continue beyond the project conclusion. A collection of 200 photographs of sites of interest will be used for comparison.

Strengthening communities in climate change adaptation

MarViva strengthened communities, institutions, and stakeholders of coastal areas in climate change adaptation through the following actions:

  • A baseline was established with the help of previous studies conducted in the area
  • Generating a data series of physical-chemical parameters to study patterns y recognize changes caused by climate change
  • Habitat and settlements vulnerable to climate change were identified
  • A list of recommendations to mitigate climate change impacts
  • Over 60 artisanal fishers trained in responsible fishing practices to foster more resilient fish populations
  • Communities identified habitats and coastal communities considered particularly vulnerable to climate change
  • Informational material about the impacts of climate change on communities and fisheries was provided to fish receiving centers in the area

Decision makers and users of marine and coastal resources

More than 90 decision makers and users of marine and coastal resources participated in awareness raising activities related to climate change impacts. The activities included environmental education activities in schools in the community and workshops with community members, public institutions, receiving centers and fishing groups.


Climate change impacts cannot be stopped. However, coastal community and marine habitat resilience can be strengthened through proper planning. The commission in charge of the area needs to increase its action radius an influence to incorporate climate change and its effects over ecosystem services in its agenda.

The project “Adaptation of vulnerable coastal communities facing the imminent threats of climate change in the area of Paquera, Puntarenas” helped identify the effects of climate change on the AMPR Paquera-Tambor in the future. The project also strengthened communities’ knowledge of climate change impacts and generated recommendations on effect mitigation.

The project shows how these actions in the AMPR Paquera-Tambor of cooperation between communities, authorities, and NGOs can be fruitful and generate coordinated management of the marine resources.






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