Ecuador expands the protected area to include the Galapagos Islands


Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso announced on Friday that his government would expand the protected waters off the Galapagos Islands to include a migratory corridor for sharks, turtles, fish and marine mammals.

The executive order will create more than 23,000 square miles of newly protected ocean around one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet — a place where penguins and tropical fish swim with sea turtles and sea lions, while migratory hammerhead sharks and tuna maneuver through the frigid waters to mate, spawn and feed . The protective measures will extend north to Costa Rica’s southern maritime border.

The new reserve will “protect the submarine mountains” that stretch northeast of the Galapagos archipelago toward Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, keeping longlines and other fish out of an area that animals use as a “subway,” to cross this environmentally rich area. said Gustavo Manrique, Minister of the Environment of Ecuador.

The new area will expand the 51,352-square-mile Galapagos Marine Reserve by almost 50% and strengthen a chain of protected areas that nations like Costa Rica and Panama have established along the Pacific coast.

“It’s remarkable and incredible how these nations have come together to build this marine network,” said Matt Rand, senior director of marine habitat protection at Pew Charitable Trusts.

Forming these protected areas was a focus of Lasso, who was elected president last year.

Ecuador has one of the largest Pacific fishing fleets in South America and is the largest tuna producer in the western hemisphere, accounting for around 4% of the world’s tuna catch.

“This decree sets an incredible precedent,” said Norman Wray, former president of the Governing Council of the Galapagos, noting that the fishing industry worked with the government to create the reserves.

It “also helps relieve fishing pressure over the Galapagos Marine Protected Area,” he said.

In the summer of 2020, more than 300 Chinese fishing vessels — including processing vessels, tankers and industrial boats capable of holding 1,000 tons of catch — were spotted fishing along the reserve’s border.

The reserve has become a sanctuary and nursery for a wide variety of marine life, protecting fish, sharks and rays from over and accidental fishing, high shipping traffic and pollution. As a result, it’s also a spot for good fishing – and boats wait at the edge to catch some of that prey when the animals migrate.

“That’s the way it should be,” said Rand of the Pew Charitable Trusts. “A healthy ecosystem will produce fish. This is good for biodiversity and good for a sustainable fishing fleet.” Ecuador expands the protected area to include the Galapagos Islands

Tom Vazquez

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