The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 24 February 2012 and reports on the 2010 reactive monitoring mission recommendations as well as requests made under Decision 35 COM 7B.30.
Preventing the arrival and dispersal of non-native species remains a critical component of conserving the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). The State Party reports that though a single cargo loading facility on the continent is now being used, there are long term plans to acquire property that will allow adequate inspection and quarantine operations to be carried out. Similarly, a single offloading facility in Galapagos is currently being considered and the State Party reports that one of three potential areas will be selected, however no time frame is indicated. The Committee had expressed concerns over reported infrastructure development at the town docks in the islands, but the State Party reports that these consisted only of minor re-design to better accommodate activities there, such as luggage inspection, the siting of biosecurity check points, and separating tourism from commercial uses. New, strict biosecurity standards for ships transporting goods to Galapagos have been in place since January 2012. However, as the current ships are mostly too old to be retrofitted to meet these standards, the State Party appears to be willing to give the transport companies time to find financing for new ships. No timeframe is indicated for this process.
The State Party further reports that the agency in charge of managing biosecurity in Galapagos (Agrocalidad) has been strengthened with the addition of 6 technicians and the installation of animal pathology and molecular biology investigation facilities. Reports are provided on successful campaigns for the control of several invasive species mentioned in previous reports. The final elements of biosecure cargo transportation remains to be put in place.
The dockyards in Guayaquil and the single offloading facility in Galapagos remain to be completed, and the cargo ships still do not meet strict biosecurity standards. Until these issues are finalized, the property continues to be subjected to a higher level of biosecurity risk than is necessary.
Notwithstanding a small decline in 2009, tourist arrivals have increased year after year since 1992 (nearly 117,000 in the first 7 months of 2011). As the number of available berths on cruise ships has not increased for approximately 10 years, the increase in numbers is largely taken up by land based visits. Efforts at regulating land based tourism are on the rise, with the State Party reporting a campaign for the inventorying of all tourism establishments and ensuring they have the necessary permits and meet quality standards. Press releases from the Galapagos National Park Service indicate that the Park, with the backing of the Minister of the Environment, was successful in stopping the construction of a 26 room hotel that had begun without the necessary permits, and in having a large fine imposed on the owner.
The State Party reports that it does not consider the imposition of temporary maximum number of visitors as practical for the case of Galapagos but rather considers improved tourism management as a prefered approach. There is a concerted effort on the part of the authorities to encourage smaller scale, lower impact land based tourism. The governing council of Galapagos has formally requested that the law governing tourism in protected areas be amended to recognize ecotourism as a modality, though most effort so far appears to be focused on gathering information, establishing ecotourism principles adapted to Galapagos, defining action points and informing Galapagos residents on such objectives. Some initiatives have been undertaken to work with local communities in an effort to focus on ecotourism, notably on FloreanaIsland. An inter-institutional technical advisory committee on tourism for Galapagos has been implemented and provides inputs to public policy on the management of Galapagos as a destination.
Information from Park press releases indicate that it has established new 15 day itineraries for cruise ships, starting in February 2012, which are designed to reduce the visitor impact on specific visitor sites and distribute visitors more uniformly among the 70 designated visitor sites.
The State Party reported in its 2011 report to the Committee that the “artisanal fishing” tourism activity would be evaluated in the course of that year, to ensure that it was not marketed and practiced as outright sport fishing, but rather as an authentic “fishing with the locals” activity. However, no mention is made in the current State Party report on any progress on this matter.
c) Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS)
The State Party notes that a management effectiveness assessment of the GNPS took place in 2011, and was accompanied by a major restructuring of the service, which is near completion. The restructuring is expected to give the GNPS greater capacity to deal with biosecurity issues
d) Fisheries and marine reserve management
The State Party reports that fisheries are being adequately managed. The sea cucumber fishery was opened for 60 days in 2011 after a 2 year ban, based on results from the sea cucumber population monitoring programme. Strict monitoring took place and buyers participated in ensuring the respect for minimum sizes. New regulations have been put in place in 2011 to ensure the sustainability of lobster fisheries.
The State Party also reports many marine control activities with the support of the Navy, with the capture of 18 ships caught fishing illegally, along with the confiscation of 20 longlines, which are illegal within the reserve. A significant increase in activity of the GNPS’s patrol fleet is reported, in contrast to previous years when ships were often out of service. In an effort to control costs, the Park is experimenting with non-piloted “drone” aircrafts and also with electonic monitoring of all ship movements within the reserve. The State Party identifies the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and WildAid as contributing signficantly to its efforts.
A national population census conducted in 2010 shows a decrease in migratory flows to the islands over previous years. The rate was the lowest since 1962 and it shows the results achieved on the implementation of migratory control measures. Credit can largely be attributed to the effective use of the Transit Control Card system which allows authorities to identify and notify people that do not respect the terms of their visitation permit. Over 750 people were requested to leave the islands in the first 10 months of 2011 (many of whom complied) and another nearly 200 people were forcefully returned. This clear policy is helping change the previous attitudes amongst would-be migrants that immigration policies could be easily disregarded.
During 2011, technological and didactical equipment was installed in 8 public schools to enhance knowledge on sustainable development and natural resources. This programme will be extended in the next few years to other public schools on the islands
The State Party’s report notes that the Sustainable Development and Territorial Planning Plan for Galápagos was under preparation and should have been finished by the end of 2011. However no information is provided on the finalization of this Plan. The report also clarifies that, as a result of a broad social consultative process, a number of changes have been proposed to the Organic Special Law for Galapagos and that the legal reforms to address those changes will be discussed by the National Assembly at the beginning of 2012.
The World Heritage Centre has learned of the efforts taking place to strengthen the capacity of the judicial system of the islands so that environmental crimes can be effectively tried in Galapagos, particularly in cases involving illegal fishing vessels. Galapagos judges have been refusing to hear environmental cases brought forth by the Galapagos National Park Service, instead sending them to be heard on the continent. Typically, for administrative reasons, this is leading to many cases being abandoned after enormous investment of resources on the part of the Park and its partners in detaining illegal fishing vessels and charging their crew. In response to this situation, the Attorney General of Ecuador filed a petition requesting the Supreme Court of the country to analyse the issue.