1.         Gal√°pagos 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  N/A

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

June 1996: fact-finding mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2002

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) has reported to IUCN on the state of conservation of the Site. The invasive species project, started by UNESCO/UNF/Charles Darwin Foundation in 1999 has generated considerable follow-up support from other donors. In particular the GEF/UNDP project has been launched and together with the UNESCO/UNF/CDF project will assist in the establishment of an endowment fund for the long-term conservation programmes of the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Station. The visit by the President of Ecuador to the Islands in November 2001 confirmed the Government’s support for the World Heritage status of the Marine Reserve and also for the endowment fund campaign.


In addition to these projects the Government of Ecuador has been granted an IADB loan of about 20 million US$ for marine conservation, quarantine and institutional strengthening. All the projects are moving towards implementation, although incurring some administrative delays.  The loan is a particularly clear demonstration of the willingness of the Government of Ecuador to finance Galapagos conservation. 


The Park Service and CDRS are making good progress on many fronts; three examples are: The biological control of the cottony cushion scale, a pest that attacks 60 native plant species; The eradication of pigs and goats from Santiago Island (the pigs will soon be declared eradicated, whilst the goats have been drastically reduced in numbers); and the assessment of the impacts of the Jessica (widespread, light contamination but few measurable impacts except in the case of Santa Fe marine iguanas).


An important advance by INGALA has been in implementing the process of defining who are the permanent residents of Galapagos and evaluating some of the problems in relation to the granting of residence permits.


Of grave concern, however, is the loss of momentum on the preparation of the four key Special Regulations, which by law were to have been prepared and promulgated three months after the Special Law for Galapagos, enacted in March 1998:

·  the artisanal fisheries regulation;

·  the regulation on tourism in protected natural areas;

·  the regulation on quarantine, introduced species and agriculture;

·  the regulation on environmental control, including environmental impact assessment and audit.


Important progress was made on the fisheries, tourism and quarantine regulations in the first half of 2001 but since mid-2001 there has been little progress.  Amongst the consequences of the lack of regulations are:

·  The principles and directives established by the Special Law for Galapagos in relation to the biggest threat to the islands – invasive species – cannot be fully put into practice;

·  Investments by the Government and the international community in invasive species control cannot achieve their full long-term benefit, because measures to reduce the influx of new invasive species are hampered by lack of clear rules and institutional framework;

·  There are no permanent legal instruments to put local artisanal fishing on a sustainable footing, to limit the capacity of the local fishing fleet to appropriate levels, and to ensure compatibility between fishing, tourism, scientific research and conservation;

·  The lack of set limits makes institutions wary of investment in the local artisanal fishing sector, because it may lead to further growth in the sector and increased pressure on over-exploited resources;

·  The uncertainty regarding the regulation on artisanal fishing is a fundamental cause of social conflict; the participatory management flora exist and generally function well but they need to operate within a framework of the basic rules for all economic activities in the Reserve;

·  There are no set limits on the categories and quantity of tourism, other than the conventional cruise tourism;

·  Attempts to incorporate environmental considerations into planning for projects in Galapagos depend on the goodwill of the proponent and have no clear procedures or decision-making;

·  The more time that passes, the more difficult it will be to implement the environmental aspects of the Special Law.


A second area of serious concern in relation to the legal framework is the mention of a future proposal to reform the Special Law for Galapagos, in order to permit industrial fishing within the Marine Reserve. 


CDRS highlights that this is a sensitive, complex marine protected area, with a unique combination of cold- and warm-water communities and abundant large marine animals.  It experiences marked environmental fluctuations during the El Niño – La Niña cycles, the effects of which may interact with human impacts, such as fishing.  It is arguably the most scientifically important piece of ocean of its size in the world, as well as supporting the majority of the wildlife on which all Galapagos tourism depends.  Industrial fishing in the Reserve cannot be justified or considered compatible with the preservation of scientific and tourism values of Galapagos. 


The third area of concern is the continued illegal fishing, particularly in relation to sharks, which are caught for their fins.  Sharks are a very important component of the marine ecosystem, especially in Galapagos where they are abundant, and they are the flagship of the dive tourism industry, which is one area where significant growth is possible.  Motivated by the high price paid by the Far Eastern markets, both Galapagos and mainland fishermen are catching sharks illegally in large numbers.  Most shark species have low reproductive rates and can tolerate very little exploitation.  The smuggling and trading of illegally caught shark fins is a sophisticated business, made easier by the fact that shark fishing is legal in Ecuador outside Galapagos. 


CDRS believes there is a need for the Government, at national and local levels, to show real political will to curb the problem, through a concerted effort involving Park Service, Navy, Police and local authorities and local leaders.  To date the tendency has been to regard the problem as too socially and politically difficult to confront.


With respect to progress with the Integrated Educational Reform, which is required by the Special Law, the CDRS notes that a steering committee has recently been established by INGALA to guide this process.  To date the process has suffered due to a lack of specialist technical expertise.


The cooperation of the four Eastern Pacific State Parties, namely Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panamá to establish a marine conservation corridor between Galápagos Islands and Cocos Island (Costa Rica) is very encouraging news about the will of the State Parties to work for the conservation of the area. The aim of the corridor proposal is to assist the Governments of those countries to strengthen and coordinate national policies, regulations and institutional arrangements for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the islands and their biological diversity in the Pacific Ocean. The proposal for the establishment of the corridor is currently being prepared for funding from the Global Environment Facility in cooperation with UNEP, Conservation International and IUCN as well as with UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 26 COM 21B.7

The World Heritage Committee:

1. Notes that there has been significant progress on invasive-species and marine conservation, quarantine and institutional strengthening actions, notably through the implementation of the UNESCO/United Nations Foundation (UNF)/Charles Darwin Foundation, Global Environment Facility (GEF)/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) projects. There have been clear signs of Government commitment to conservation, most notably the successful nomination of the Galapagos Marine Reserve for World Heritage status and the mobilization of resources to support reserve management.  However, these positive steps are increasingly undermined by the failure to complete and promulgate the Special Regulations, without which the Special Law for Galapagos - and particularly the environmental components thereof - cannot be properly implemented;

2. Urges the State Party to adopt as soon as possible the Regulations deriving from the Special Law for Galapagos, as recommended by the 25th session of the Committee in 2001 at the time of inscription of the Galapagos Marine Reserve on the World Heritage List.