On Wednesday, 28 January, the cargo ship Floreana stranded near San Cristobal, an island that is part of the Galápagos islands World Heritage site.

The vessel transported 1,400 tons of cargo and 50,000 liters of fuel among other, potentially hazardous, products. Accordingly to early government reports, products leaked from the ship. Actions are being taken to define the impacts on the marine surroundings and to reduce the possible environmental risks the discharge of pollutions could cause. Special barrier and absorbent materials are being placed around the vessel and teams are removing the cargo from the vessel. Water samples have been taken by the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park and are currently being investigated. Following the events, the Government of Galápagos declared an environmental emergency on 4 February 2015.

The Galápagos Islands was the first site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was listed in 1978 for its unusual and globally unique biodiversity. The boundaries were extended in 2001 to include its vast marine reserve commonly known as a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Its geographical location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world while ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the islands formation. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual plant and animal life – such as marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, huge cacti, endemic trees and many different subspecies of mockingbirds and finches – all of which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.

During its 38th Session in Doha, the World Heritage Committee urged the State Party of Ecuador to sustain its efforts putting in place the biosecurity infrastructure for the islands, with a particular focus on the requirements to rigorously apply international biosecurity standards for cargo ships.