1.         Galápagos 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) Poor governance;

c) Inadequate and ineffective quarantine measures;

d) Illegal fishing;

e) Instability of Park Director’s position and inadequacies in the Park’s management authority;

f) High immigration rate;

g) Unsustainable and uncontrolled tourism development;

h) Educational reform not implemented.

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 3 March 2011, the State Party submitted a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property. The Galapagos Islands were removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger at the World Heritage Committee’s 34th session (Brasilia, 2010) and the State Party was requested to focus its efforts on three key issues : i) completing the biosecurity chain of inspection and control for invasive species, ii) developing and implementing a clear tourism strategy to control visitation levels, and iii) strengthening the Galapagos National Park Service’s capacity to deal effectively with challenges to its mandate (Decision 34 COM 7A.15). The State Party’s progress addressing these three issues, as well as the recommendations of the 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission, is reported below.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall their view, expressed at the World Heritage Committee’s 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), that the property remains in potential danger of losing the values for which it was inscribed on the World Heritage List due to the ongoing breakdown of its ecological isolation and unsustainable tourism development that facilitates the introduction of alien species which threaten species native to the Galapagos.

a) Completing of the biosecurity chain of inspection and control to address invasive species

The State Party reports that it intends to establish a single loading dock at Guayaquil on the continent by the end of 2012. Terms of Reference have also been issued for a pre-feasibility study to establish a single deepwater dock at Baltra to receive cargo from the continent, as recommended by the 2010 joint mission. The pre-feasibility study will also recommend an efficient distribution system of goods to the property’s other islands. The State Party notes that an improved dock facility and crane was opened in December 2010 on San Cristobal Island, that there are plans to develop a new dock on Isabela Island, and that it plans to improve the infrastructure of the four populated islands ports by 2013. The 7 cargo ships operating from Guayaquil and transporting cargo to the Galapagos will be subject to a number of new and more stringent biosecurity, inspection and maintenance regulations from 31 March 2011 onward.

The State Party also reports that the ‘Galapagos Inspection and Quarantine System’ (SICGAL by its Spanish acronym) is being restructured and will most likely result in the creation of a Biosecurity Agency, which would be operational by the end 2011 and should, in the State Party’s view, provide a more holistic approach to invasive species control. Moreover, Agrocalidad, the agency currently dealing with the implementation of SICGAL and the enforcement of the ‘Optimal System for Maritime Cargo Transportation to Galapagos’ (SOTMCG by its Spanish acronym), has been strengthened through the adoption of Resolutions N˚ 14 and N˚ 16, which establish disinfection procedures for cargo and passenger ships as well as aircraft, and grant Agrocalidad the mandate to undertake this work. Efforts are on going to control invasive species, including the Mediterranean fly, big headed ant, fire ants, African snail, feral goats, donkey and cattle, feral cats, and introduced rodents.

While the State Party has made some progress in implementing the 2010 mission recommendations as requested by World Heritage Committee Decision 34 COM 7A.15, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that a critical gap still remains in preventing the arrival of new species to the islands. They consider that the impacts of the reported dock facility developments on the biosecurity chain in the islands should have been assessed in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before being undertaken. They consider that the nature of these developments requires clarification. In line with the recommendation of the most recent mission, they consider that new docks should not be constructed, whilst improvements to existing facilities should not lead to increases in the arrival of goods directly from the mainland. They consider that the development of transport between the islands should be linked with the development of a single shipping entry point at Baltra. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the State Party does not clarify whether it intends to replace the 7 aging and mal-adapted cargo ships serving the Galapagos, with new ships designed to facilitate the application of biosecurity measures, as urged in Decision 34 COM 7A.15. They consider that additional biosecurity regulations, while laudable, are unlikely to address this issue. The State Party also makes no mention of whether it will consider dismantling or permanently converting the Villamil air terminal to another use, as recommended by the 2010 mission in order to limit the number of entry points on the islands. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further note that, ahead of the establishment of a new Biosecurity Agency, there is a need to institute a capacity building programme, including a focus on dogs trained in detecting organic matter, strengthen the budget and staff for inspections, and to apply internationally certified bio-security practices, including independent compliance audits.

b) Developing and implementing a clear tourism strategy to control visitation levels

The State Party reports that it is developing a tourism strategy for the property, in line with the 2010 mission recommendations and World Heritage Committee Decision 34 COM 7A.15. During the first Sustainable Tourism Summit held in September 2010, a ‘Declaration of Ecotourism as a model touristic development for Galapagos’ was signed, and guidelines, as well as pilot projects, are currently being developed to establish ecotourism public policies for the property. The number of visitors to the islands in 2010 was not expected to exceed the 173,420 visitors recorded in 2008 (as of 30 November 2010, 158,300 visitors had been recorded). The State Party also reports that while ‘artisanal experiential fishing’ has been fully regulated since 2009, these regulations were manipulated to license sports fishing. It intends to review these regulations to ensure that they do not allow sports fishing in the future, and to sanction boats carrying out sports fishing.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the State Party has made notable progress in initiating a tourism strategy for the Galapagos, and welcome the establishment of ecotourism as the standard tourism model for the property. However, they note that that the State Party has not considered limiting the number of visitors to the islands while the tourism strategy is being developed, as was requested by the World Heritage Committee. It is also unclear whether the above tourism strategy will include concrete mechanisms to discourage rapid and uncontrolled growth in visitation, such as imposing an upper limit to the number of Park entrance permits awarded annually, as recommended by the 2010 mission.

c) Strengthening the Galapagos National Park Service’s capacity to deal effectively with challenges to its mandate

The Director of the Park was replaced in June 2010. The State Party reports a number of activities, regulations and resolutions aimed at strengthening the Galapagos National Park Service’s capacity to deal effectively with the challenges to its mandate, some of which are described above. The Park Service has engaged in an in-depth management effectiveness assessment with the support of an international team of experts. The Galapagos Governing Council’s budget for 2011 is reported to be 30 million USD, with considerable emphasis on preventing the introduction of invasive species, immigration control, environmental management and territorial planning. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the further progress by the State Party in addressing the decisions of the World Heritage Committee. They note that a number of critical activities are still however in the planning stage. Actions still in need of full implementation include key components of the biosecurity chain of inspection and control of invasive species, and the demonstrated ability to effectively manage rapid and uncontrolled tourism related development, and further strengthening the Galapagos National Park Service’s capacity to deal effectively with the challenges to its mandate. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that as long as these activities are not fully implemented, the property will continue to face serious threats to its Outstanding Universal Value, in particular due to the introduction of alien species which threaten species native to the Galapagos. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to strengthen its efforts to implement all of the 2010 mission recommendations, with a focus on the above three issues. They consider that an assessment of the likely effects of improving the ports of the property’s four populated islands on the biosecurity chain should be made and provided to the World Heritage Committee prior to undertaking this work in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.30

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7A.15, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

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

4. Notes that a number of critical conservation activities are still at the planning stage, including those relating to securing the biosecurity chain of inspection and control of invasive species, and the development of a tourism strategy in response to uncontrolled tourism related development, and considers that while the above activities are not implemented, the property will continue to face serious threats to its Outstanding Universal Value due to the breakdown of its ecological isolation, the introduction of alien species which threaten native species, and unsustainable tourism development;

5. Reiterates its request to strengthen the efforts to implement all of the 2010 mission recommendations, with a focus on completing the biosecurity chain of inspection and control for invasive species, further strengthening the Galapagos National Park Service's capacity to deal effectively with challenges to its mandate and developing and implementing a clear tourism strategy to discourage rapid and uncontrolled growth in visitation, including by assessing the feasibility of imposing an upper limit to the number of Park entrances granted annually;

6. Requests the State Party to assess the effects of the improvement of port facilities currently under construction or planned within the property's four populated islands in order to ensure that they do not impact negatively on the biosecurity chain and to provide plans and assessments to the World Heritage Centre for review, prior to undertaking such projects, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property, with particular emphasis on the points above and on progress in the implementation of the 2010 mission recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.