Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

Ensuring Protection of the Galapagos Islands Marine Sanctuary in Darwin and Wolf Islands: Home to the Largest Biomass of Sharks in the World and Birthplace of Whale Sharks

On March 21, 2016, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, signed a decree expanding no-take zones (banning fishing) to a large portion of Galapagos National Park; creating both an exciting conservation opportunity and challenging socio-economic situation. Ecuador is in the process of transforming itself from a petro-centric economy towards one focused on tourism. In the 2001 zoning of the Galapagos, only .08% of the Marine Reserve was protected as a no-take zone; in 2005 it was expanded to 10.2%; and the current zoning proposal increases fishing restrictions to 33% of the area (including a marine sanctuary in the Darwin and Wolf Islands). The new zoning directly affects the livelihoods of the fishing sector, estimated to be about 408 active fishermen and their families. Sustainable Travel International, in conjunction with National Geographic Pristine Seas, was asked to provide analysis and direction to the Ministry of Tourism in relation to two (of 16) commitments made by Ecuador’s government to address concerns raised by the Galapagos fishing sector.

To date, Sustainable Travel International’s work has focused on understanding on-the-ground dynamics through extensive stakeholder interviews with government, park management, the fishing sector, and local businesses. We are in the process of completing a wide range of economic analyses to understand levels of local business profitability; and human impact assessment to ensure that potential solutions fit within the larger Galapagos context. Phase one of this project is scheduled for completion in August 2016, although ensuring that tourism in the Galapagos is well-managed and tied to a long-term strategy will remain a high priority for Sustainable Travel International and others.

For more information, please contact Paloma Zapata.