VII.23 Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
The Committee at its twenty-first session invited the Government of Ecuador to notify the Chairperson of the Committee of the final enactment and entering into force of the Galapagos Special Law. The Committee decided that if, by the opening date of the twenty-second ordinary session of the Bureau, the Government of Ecuador had not notified the Chairperson of the enactment and entry into force of the "Special Galapagos Law", the Galapagos Islands be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
At its twenty-second ordinary session in June 1998, the Bureau was informed that the "Special Law on the Galapagos" was published, on 18 March 1998, by the Official Registry of Ecuador as Law No. 278, and that the Chairperson of the Committee had been officially notified of the enactment and the entry into force of the Law. Hence, the Bureau recommended that the Committee not consider Galapagos Islands for inclusion in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Bureau noted that the Law, if implemented, would greatly strengthen conservation in both the Galapagos Islands as well as in the marine waters surrounding them. The Law provides for the extension of the outer boundary of the marine reserve from 24 to 64 km offshore and for the establishment of a significant 130,000 km2 Reserve for the conservation of marine biodiversity where only tourism and artisanal fisheries will be permitted. The Bureau was satisfied to note that the Law addresses most of the major issues relating to conservation and sustainable development of Galapagos, including:
- regulations for the control and eradication of introduced species and the establishment of a quarantine inspection system;
- appreciation of Galapagos by local people and their participation in its conservation through environmental education;
- building local skills and conservation institutions, including the strengthening of the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) and improving inter-agency co-ordination through the work of a revived INGALA (Instituto National de Galapagos);
- immigration and residence control measures to stabilise the rate of growth of human population size; and
- a participatory planning process for marine resources conservation.
The Bureau commended the Government of Ecuador and all agencies, groups, local residents and experts for reaching a consensus on this new Law. The Bureau urged the Ecuadorian authorities to ensure the effective implementation of the Law and invited them to re-nominate the Marine Reserve, deferred by the Committee in 1994, to be a part of the World Heritage site as soon as the management plan for the Marine Reserve is finalized in 1999.
The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the GNPS have jointly implemented a project, partly financed by the World Heritage Fund, to gather basic information needed for the establishment of an ecological monitoring system for Galapagos. The final report of the project has been submitted and includes an exhaustive list of introduced species belonging to a number of animal and plant taxa. The Bureau was informed that an Inter- American Development Bank Project is being developed for Galapagos and, if approved, could facilitate the effective implementation of the Special Galapagos Law, particularly with regard to the conservation of marine resources and for ensuring sustainable tourism development. The Bureau learned that the UNESCO Office in Quito has entered into agreement with the Ecuadorian Ministry for the Environment for providing legal assistance on the implementation of the Galapagos Law and that the volcanic eruption of the Cerro Azul on Isabela Island did not have any major impacts on the wildlife of Galapagos.
The Committee commended the Ecuadorean Government for ensuring the passage of, and entry into force of the Special Galapagos Law and decided not to consider including the Galapagos Islands in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee urged the State Party to re-nominate, in 1999, the Marine Reserve as an extension of the World Heritage site. The Committee drew the attention of the State Party to the Bureau's recommendation, made at its twenty-first ordinary session in June 1997, that the State Party submit annual reports on the state of conservation of Galapagos until the end of the year 2002. The Committee invited the State Party to submit the first of the requested series of annual reports to the twenty-third session of the Committee in 1999.