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

Total amount provided to the property: USD 3.5 million for the capitalization of an introduced species Trust Fund, management of introduced species, tourism management studies and other technical support.

Previous monitoring missions

June 1996, Joint UNESCO / IUCN mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson) ; June 2003, UNESCO mission ; April 2005 : UNESCO informal visit; February/March 2006, Joint UNESCO/IUCN mission ; April 2007, Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson) ; April 2009 , UNESCO informal visit; April/May 2010, Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Inadequate implementation of the Special Law on Galápagos;

b) Inadequate and ineffective quarantine measures;

c) Illegal fishing;

d) High immigration rate;

e) Unsustainable and uncontrolled tourism development.

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

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.

a) Biosecurity

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. 

b) Tourism

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. 

e) Immigration

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. 

f) Education

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

g) Governance

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. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the further progress made by the State Party in addressing the decisions of the World Heritage Committee, particularly in regards to improving governance, controlling immigration and further strengthening biosecurity measures.

They note that the State Party is making concerted efforts at developing a suitable ecotourism policy and regulatory framework for the property, and that it has shown determination in dealing with developments that disregard established procedures. The issue of artisanal versus sport fishing needs to be clarified. 

They note from Park press releases that there has been some stability in the Park directorship position, with the current director having been in his position since June 2010. They also take note of the progress achieved in establishing greater robustness of the GNPS as an institution, and recommend that the Committee encourage the State Party to further strengthen the GNPS.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are also of the view that the ability to impose a ban on selective fisheries is a positive indicator that the fishing community and the State Party are working cooperatively. The marine reserve is benefitting from the reasonably effective monitoring capacity of the Park service.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note that the State Party has established better control over immigration pressures, and that this improvement in the situation needs to be sustained. They also wish to highlight to the Committee that progress in revising the Special Law for Galapagos indicates a degree of cooperation amongst different Galapagos stakeholders, but that lack of judicial capacity is a clear limiting factor.  The involvement of the Attorney General in efforts to resolve this problem is an indication of the commitment on the part of the State Party to strengthening governance in the islands, and it is essential that there is a rapid improvement in enforcement capacity. They finally recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to resolve the problem regarding the capacity of Galapagos based judges to hear environmental crime cases as a matter of urgency. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.32

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B, 

2.  Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.30, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.  Welcomes the further progress achieved by the State Party in implementing the recommendations of the 2010 World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission;

4.  Requests the State Party to sustain its efforts to implement all of the recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission, in particular those where  activities are at the planning stage and require finalization and implementation as soon as possible, including:

a)  Putting in place the biosecurity infrastructure for the islands, with a particular focus on the requirements for international biosecurity standards both for cargo ships, and for loading and offloading facilities,

b)  Implementing a sustainable tourism strategy through appropriate regulatory, legal and policy instruments,

c)  Resolving the issue over the capacity of judges in Galapagos to hear environmental crime cases as a matter of urgency,

d)  Resolving the sport fishing / artisanal fishing issue;

5.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014,a report on the state of conservation of the property, with particular emphasis on the implementation of the points noted above, as well as on further progress made in the implementation of the 2010 mission recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.