"The Government of the United States appreciates the work of the Costa Ricans for ecosystem conservation. I am very proud of collaborating with you to promote the management of human activities in the sea," were the words of recognition for the work of the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, given by Nancy Sutley, Head of Environmental Quality for the White House, during the ceremony to present the award for "Excellence in National Ocean Administration" this afternoon in Washington D.C.
The White House official said that "the President Barack Obama gives high priority to the conservation of the oceans, because they are a source of work for thousands of people. We are facing a great challenge: to conserve the oceans while maintaining them as a source of production. Obama is proud of the government of Costa Rica for being a marine conservation example.”
The ceremony was attended by some 200 people, including diplomats, representatives of international cooperation organizations, officials of the MarViva Foundation and other environmental conservation NGOs, and multilateral development banks.
The award, presented as a MarViva Foundation initiative in the context of the prestigious "Peter Benchley Ocean Awards", recognizes President Chinchilla for the creation of the first oceanic Marine Protected Area in the vast sea of Costa Rica, an area that is 11 times larger than the terrestrial area.
This Seamounts Marine Management Area is approximately 9,640 km2 and it contains seamounts with outstanding oceanographic characteristics and unique biodiversity. The most important fishery resources in the area are shark and tuna.
During the ceremony, MarViva Foundation General Director Jorge Jiménez expressed his "satisfaction because finally an effort by President Chinchilla is being recognized, putting a gold star on a process that has been in the works for more than three years for the sustainable management of the Cocos Island Marine Area."
Following the words of the White House representative, Jiménez emphasized that "this recognition shows that we must continue working to pursue Marine Spatial Planning in the oceans.”
For her part, President Chinchilla pointed out that she feels “very honored to be among friends and world leaders for marine conservation in receiving this distinction.”
"The process for the declaration of the Seamounts Marine Management Area was a long and coordinated effort led by individuals, environmental organizations and State institutions. I am proud to receive this award in the name of Costa Rica. Contributing to the protection of natural heritage satisfies me enormously. Particularly with respect to the waters around Cocos Island, an emblem of national pride and a marine conservation symbol for the world," said the President of Costa Rica.
The award event was held in the Inter-American Development Bank facilities. The award was given by Wendy Benchley, widow of journalist and environmentalist Peter Benchley, who is recognized worldwide for his novel "Jaws".
Benchley said "we are very pleased for the leadership and vision of President Laura Chinchilla, and the commitment that the people of Costa Rica have kept for a long time for marine conservation, which will also benefit people and biodiversity, not just for the nation but for the region and the entire world.”
The award consists of a sculpture of three manta rays, designed by marine artist Wyland expressly for the Peter Benchley awards. It commemorates a dive Peter Benchley made in early 1980.
Regarding the need to conserve the oceans, Chinchilla finally appealed to the international community: "I call on the responsibility of countries that have more technical and material resources than we do and we hope that they understand the importance of solidarity in this effort, because otherwise we will all pay the price for inaction and indifference.”