1.         Gal├ípagos Islands (Ecuador) (N 1bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1978

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   2007-2010

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 567,850
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Mining, Oil/Gas Exploration, Poaching/Hunting; Lack of monitoring system 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

The State Party has continued to move forward in the drafting and approval of several regulations under the 1998 Special Law for Galapagos and the legal framework for activities in Galapagos is now almost complete. Despite these encouraging developments, the Special Law of Galapagos and its regulations were seriously challenged on two occasions early in 2004 by the tourism and fishing sectors.  Fortunately, initial positive reactions to the demands of these sectors were overturned at a later date, preserving the integrity of the Special Law for Galapagos and of the hard won legal framework under which management decisions are made in Galapagos.


A UNESCO mission to the site was undertaken in June 2003 to follow-up on the evaluation of the United Nations Foundation – UNESCO project to control and eradicate invasive species in Galapagos. The evaluation was largely positive, but revealed weaknesses in quarantine and fund-raising aspects of the project.  In addition, the evaluation highlighted the need to finance at least one more year of activities in order to bring a few eradication activities to completion.  Invasive species remain the greatest threat to Galapagos biodiversity, and an effective quarantine system is critical to the longer-term conservation of Galapagos.  Despite having received significant support from international organizations to help it design and establish an operational quarantine system, the State Party continues to encounter difficulties assuming the system’s basic operational costs, leading to continued risks of introduction of species harmful to both wildlife and humans.  For example, 2 years ago, Dengue fever was reported in Galapagos for the first time. 


Fund-raising for the endowment fund continues to be a challenge, as the actual endowment structure has not yet been created.  This on-going difficulty relates partly to the requirement that the UNF endowment be linked to another endowment being created under the Global Environment Facility – United Nations Development Programme (GEF -UNDP) project.  The Secretary General of the United Nations visited the Galapagos in early November 2003 and committed himself to supporting the fund-raising efforts.  He has since appointed his senior adviser to design a UN fund-raising support strategy, who was to visit the Galapagos in May 2004.  The UNDP will be working closely with him, and UNESCO will be providing its full support.


Additional funding is currently being sought to help complete the eradication components of the UNF-UNESCO project.  Working closely with the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park Service, this project has helped build for the first time in Galapagos, a region wide understanding of the threat of introduced species, leading to greater community participation in various project activities. 


The Galapagos National Park Service made a formal request to the International Maritime Organization, supported by the Centre, to have the Galapagos Marine Reserve recognized as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).  The IMO granted PSSA status to Galapagos in early April 2004.  This status helps protect the islands and the marine waters surrounding it from traditional freedom of passage of international marine traffic. 


The United Nations Foundation financed “Control and Eradication of Invasive Species” project managed by the Centre has been extended for an additional year.  This project has helped increase local capacity and has led to a greater confidence among Galapagos institutions, notably the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park Service.  The project has also helped sensitize Galapagos residents towards the importance of dealing with introduced species in Galapagos.  With support from the World Heritage Fund, experts from the Charles Darwin Foundation travelled to Cocos Island World Heritage property in Costa Rica in February of 2004 to help develop an introduced species management strategy for that island. 


Starting this year, the Galapagos Islands are also included in a new United Nations Foundation / Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supported project managed by the Centre.  This project is focussing on the establishment and conservation of a marine corridor in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.  Cocos Island World Heritage property in Costa Rica, Malpelo island National Park in Colombia, and Coiba Island National Park in Panama will also be participating in an effort to improve marine conservation and to support region wide cooperation. 


IUCN notes that from 19 to 27 February, 2004 the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Island of Santa Cruz were held hostage by a group of 80 fishers, effectively closing down these institutions, thus stopping key management activities implemented by them.


The objective of the fishing community was to revoke the fishery quota previously established through a fully participatory process.  This quota was established to maintain sustainable fisheries in areas previously delimited and to a level that does not jeopardize the integrity of the marine reserve.  This unrest ceased after an agreement was signed by the Ministry of the Environment and fishing groups.  The agreement endorsed all the demands from the fishers and also opened up the possibility of reviewing 10 articles of the Fishery Regulation adopted under the Special Law for Galapagos.


According to a number of conservation organizations and experts working in the islands this agreement does not respect the outcomes of the participatory process that defined fisheries management in the marine reserve under the Fishery Regulation for Galapagos.  The agreement is also seen to be in direct conflict with the conservation objectives of the marine reserve and as a direct threat to the objectives defined under the Special Law for Galapagos.  Furthermore, a number of NGOs and experts noted with serious concern that violence and civil unrest is used repeatedly as a tool to influence the management of the marine reserve towards a more commercial approach.  A few days after the agreement with the fishers was signed the Minister of Environment of Ecuador resigned.


IUCN also noted that the situation is improving since the designation of the new Minister for Environment.  However IUCN noted that, while the PSSA declaration by IMO is basically oriented to threats to international maritime traffic, it needs to be supported by strong measures at the national level as well.  This is important as the last incident occurring in the Galapagos Island was associated with an oil spill in 2001 originated by a national vessel operating in Galapagos, and not associated with international maritime traffic.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.31

The World Heritage Committee, 1. Noting with concern the events that have occurred in Galapagos and their potentially negative impact on the integrity of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. This recent development is not in line with previous efforts implemented by the State Party oriented to enhance the conservation of this property. It is also in direct contradiction with the high standards set by the State Party when implementing a truly participatory process to define the Fishery Regulation under the Special Law for Galapagos, 2. Observes with concern that the quarantine system in Galapagos, vital in preventing further introductions of species harmful to wildlife and humans, is not yet fully operational and that the State Party has not yet assumed full responsibility for its operation; 3. Requests the State Party to uphold and maintain the integrity of the Galapagos Special Law, which is critical to the orderly decision-making process relating to resource use and development in Galapagos and to ensure that the fishing quotas established by the due processes under the Galapagos Special Law are respected; 4. Commends the State Party for taking the initiative to have the Galapagos Marine Reserve designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area and encourages it to share this experience with other States Parties with Marine World Heritage properties; 5. Welcomes the United Nations Foundation's continued interest in Galapagos and the new support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; 6. Requests the State Party to provide a report on the state of conservation of the property and in particular to advise on what legal and institutional measures are going to be taken to ensure the full application of the Special Law for Galapagos by 1 February 2005, for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.