“As scientists and organizations concerned with the conservation of wildlife, the green spaces and natural habitats, we write to express our support for the Regulations for construction in the buffer zone of the National Refuge of Ostional Wildlife”.

With those words, 60 scientists and environmental leaders from 16 countries sent a letter to the Municipality of Nicoya on Friday October 2nd, to endorse and support the construction regulation approved by the Muni in February of this year.

Although the regulation is in force, its validity is at stake. A tourist entrepreneur sued the Municipality of Nicoya in the Administrative Contentious Court and asked as a precautionary measure, that the regulation be suspended until the merits of the case are resolved. 

In the letter, the scientists assured that the regulation is essential to protect the Ostional Refuge –  an important site worldwide for the protection of the Olive Ridley sea turtle; this species is on the red list of animals vulnerable to extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The document also has the support of 16 environmental organizations, including the Sea Turtle Conservancy, The Leatherback Trust, and the Wildlife Conservation Association, among others.

Among the prominent scientists are: Michael Salmon, professor of biology at the University of Atlantic Florida, Annette Broderick, professor of marine conservation at Exeter University in the United Kingdom and Richard Reina, professor of marine biology at Monash University of Australia.

“We express our support for the efforts of the Municipality of Nicoya to regulate construction in the buffer zone of the Ostional Refuge as a critical action to protect sea turtles, wildlife and the communities that inhabit the Refuge and its surroundings. We urge the Contentious Administrative Tribunal and the Judicial Branch of Costa Rica to support this initiative to support the Municipality of Nicoya,” say the experts in the letter.


What is the regulation about?

It is a municipal tool that was approved in February 2020 and its objective is to regulate and control the granting of construction permits for those who want to build in the buffer zone of the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.

This regulation applies to properties that are part of the buffer area. This area is delimited by SINAC and, in the case of the Ostional refuge, it is directly related to the aquifers that exist in Nosara. For this reason, a buffer area of ​​5 km was determined from the limit of the Refuge to the inland area. Destinations such as Guiones and Pelada beaches are included within this perimeter.

The regulation regulates four areas: the coverage of buildings, the height of the buildings, the management of wastewater and the control of lighting.


Also read: Guide to Understanding the Building Regulations and Their Defense


On this last point, the scientists explained in the letter that sea turtles are sensitive to both direct artificial light sources and indirect light (that which is dispersed in the atmosphere and reflected back to Earth). Both types of lights can disrupt nesting behavior and disorient female and hatchling sea turtles.

Scientists stressed the importance of regulating construction in the Refuge’s buffer zone, since Ostional is one of the few places in the world where massive sea turtle nesting events occur.

They added that the Ostional Refuge protects 510 hectares of terrestrial habitat and 8,054 hectares of marine habitat that contain a diversity of flora and fauna. The Refuge includes important rocky intertidal habitats and mangroves that serve important ecosystem functions and are home to a diversity of organisms.

“This regulation is essential to maintain a buffer zone around the Refuge and minimize the impact of development on these protected species and habitats,” the letter states.


And now that?

Up to now, the Contentious Administrative Court has not made any decision; so the regulation remains in force.

With the intention of joining forces, the Nosara Civic Association supported the Municipality of Nicoya in the legal defense as an interested party, in order to guarantee the protection of the natural resources of the Refuge.

If you want to support this construction regulation, you can also help by donating at this link to cover the legal costs of defending the regulation.

Also, please use this link  to sign the petition addressed to the Court, so that it validates the regulation and does not eliminate it.