On 12 February 2010 the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property. The report included a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Both are currently under review.
The joint World Heritage Centre/ IUCN reactive monitoring mission requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) took place from 28 April to 6 May 2010. The principal factor leading to the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger arises from the breakdown of its ecological isolation due to the increasing movement, mainly driven by growth in visitation, of people and goods between the islands and the continent, facilitating the introduction of alien species, which threaten native and endemic Galapagos species. Additional issues include illegal fishing pressures in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), and institutional instability. A full discussion on the 15 corrective measures is included in the mission report. The corrective measures addressed below are those for which further action is particularly required. Those corrective measures not appearing below are considered by the mission to be either being fully or largely implemented.
a) Reducing the number of access points to the Galápagos Islands, by sea and by air, to decrease the probabilities of new invasive species being introduced
The number of continental air and maritime ports serving Galapagos has been reduced to three. At least basic biosecurity inspections services are available in all of these ports. In Galapagos, two commercial airports and four maritime ports receive commercial traffic directly from the continent. However, the mission noted that the multiple entry points disperse the limited biosecurity inspection capacity in the islands. Baltra, a small, dry island, is an ideal setting for the establishment of a single maritime entry point where biosecurity inspection and control infrastructure should be concentrated. In 2007, a large airport terminal was constructed at Villamil. The mission noted that it was clearly built to accommodate hundreds of passengers. Though the terminal is unused, the mission noted a strong sense of expectation among various stakeholders on the eventual approval of commercial air service, presenting a risk for the opening of a new access point in the future and increasing the level of threat to the property. The mission concludes that there are still too many access point and that this unnecessarily increases the risk of introduction and dispersal of invasive species.
b) Strengthening of the selection process for the highest ranking posts in INGALA (Instituto Nacional Galápagos) and SESA (Servicio Ecuatoriano de Sanidad agropecuaria) ;
The mission notes that the new constitution for Ecuador, adopted on 20 October 2008, resulted in the amalgamation of the National Institute for Galapagos (INGALA) and the Provincial Government, now directed by a governing council comprised of three ministers and the elected mayors of Galapagos. Though formally in existence, the council has not yet hired its director of operations – a post with significant responsibilities towards the property. The mission was assured that the position would be filled based on technical specifications, and by transparent means. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the recruitment process for the director of operations should be as fully transparent and competence-based as that of other key positions including the Director of GNPS and Agrocalidad, and that a clear line of communication between the Governing Council and the Director of GNPS should be assured.
c) Regulating recreational fishing activities
An international sport fishing tournament (focusing exclusively on bill-fish such as marlin and swordfish) was organized for December 2009 independent of the Galapagos National Park Service, which is responsible for all activities within the marine reserve. The activity was deemed illegal by the Park and was not allowed to proceed. The organizers re-packaged the tournament as “artisanal subsistence fishing”, an allowable fishing modality in the marine reserve. Under this modality, the same activity was subsequently authorized by the Park. The tournament focused on catching and releasing as many bill-fish as possible within the time frame of the tournament. Mortality of bill-fish is understood to be significant despite this practice The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned by the Park’s de facto authorization of sport fishing within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, without a clear understanding of its likely impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. They note that there is a lack of information on the targeted bill-fish populations, which are under very high pressure from commercial and sports fishing activities throughout the eastern Pacific. They also consider authorization of this activity can be taken as one indicator of reduced effectiveness of the management of the Galapagos National Park Service.
d) Controlling the number of tourists coming to the Galápagos Islands
Ship based capacity is strictly limited by government authorities and reached a steady state approximately 10 years ago. Land based capacity is limited only by the capacity of commercial aircraft delivering visitors. Land based visitation in Villamil is reported as having increased from 5,000 in 2003, to 25,000 in 2009. The mission noted that hotel construction and the opening of informal guest houses continue at a rapid pace often without the requisite municipal or Tourism Ministry approvals. One hotel, the Iguana Crossing in Villamil, is currently undergoing a judicial process for having built on GalapagosNational Park land. The National Park Service is struggling to implement its concession based model of new tourism services in the park and marine areas (scuba diving, inter-island transport, artisanal fishing, day tours by boat). It faces a growing number of non-licensed operators, judicial challenges to its decisions made and active and increasing pursuit of non-authorized activities within the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that there is a need to develop and implement a clear tourism vision and strategy for Galapagos, with a focus on establishing mechanisms to discourage rapid and uncontrolled growth visitation.
e) Quarantine measures and the biosecurity practices in cruisers and freighters both between the islands and between the mainland and Galápagos
The mission found that the weakest link in the biosecurity control chain continues to be the shipping of goods from the continent to the islands. Seven small ships ranging in age from 28 to 56 years are involved, using three different loading facilities in Guayaquil. Though minimum biosecurity standards have been imposed, experts indicate that the very design of these ships render effective controls very difficult. Efforts are underway, with the support of WildAid, to equip one private dockyard (of the three currently being used by Galapagos bound cargo ships) with the necessary biosecurity inspection infrastructure. Only ships using such facilities should be licensed to serve Galapagos – and these should be audited regularly by certified third parties. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN strongly recommend policies leading to the replacement of the existing ships with fewer, larger modern vessels designed to facilitate biosecurity control. In Galapagos, goods are offloaded in a time consuming and disorganised fashion at each of the three main settlements. The main towns have no deep water docks, notwithstanding the fact that establishing cargo handling facilities there would also seriously conflict with these towns’ vocation as ecotourism centres. The best option remains the use of BaltraIsland, with its pre-existing deep water facility, as the only receiving terminal in the islands.
f) Increasing staff and infrastructure at departure points on the mainland and entry points on the Galápagos for effective inspections
Agrocalidad, the biosecurity agency, informed the mission that it was in the process of hiring 25 new technicians. Sniffer dogs (for drugs and shark fins) are now working in the three main ports of the islands. However, the mission noted that these dogs are not trained to detect plant and other animal matter, which are the primary imports of concern in terms of invasive species. The National Park is also reported to be installing x-ray equipment at the Baltra airport to improve the detection of banned products. It remains critical to concentrate all resources in fewer access points, such as BaltraIsland.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN take note of significant progress in the consolidation of Agrocalidad. However, its effectiveness is compromised due to the dispersal of its efforts amongst several entry points. Similarly, in the absence of a modern approach to handling cargo loading in Guayaquil, and as long as the ships transporting the cargo to the islands do not meet adequate standards, investment by Agrocalidad will be significantly undermined. Until this chain is effectively completed, this property will continue to remain vulnerable to the arrival of new invasive species.
Though the Galapagos National Park Service appears to be implementing its day to day activities efficiently, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned about its ability to deal with long term strategic issues. The recent forced ceding of 70 hectares of park lands to the town of Puerto Ayora is also an indicator of reduced effectiveness of the Park’s management. This was also the case in the Park’s reversal regarding sport fishing tournament brought on by pressure from a small group of foreign and local stakeholders. These incidents point to a renewed weakening of institutional governance in the islands, whereby outside agents, and not the national authorities, take the initiative in determining how park lands and the marine reserve are to be used.
Overall, though measurable progress has been achieved on the fifteen correctives measures defined for the property, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN conclude that significant progress should be attained on the points below (in relation to the relevant corrective measures):
1. Complete and secure the biosecurity chain of inspection and control. Particular emphasis on (corrective measures a, h and k):
· Establishing a single cargo loading port in Guayaquil, with the necessary infrastructure in place.
· Commit to replacing the current aging and mal-adapted cargo ships with new ships designed to facilitate the application of biosecurity measures.
· Application of established bio-security practices, with regular compliance audits, at cargo loading and off-loading points, and on cargo ships.
· Carrying out the feasibility of selecting Baltra as the only Galapagos port authorized to receive cargo directly from the continent.
· Ensure that the Villamil air terminal is not put in service and consider its dismantling to discourage speculation.
1. Demonstrate that the national authorities are leading tourism policy development and implementation for Galapagos so that the property’s OUV is not compromised by unregulated growth and development (corrective measures e and f);
· The State Party develop and implement a clear tourism strategy for Galapagos, with a focus on establishing mechanisms to discourage rapid and uncontrolled growth in visitation. A moratorium on sport fishing until a) a government run risk assessment on the potential impact of sports fishing on the Galapagos nature tourism brand be done, and if a decision to proceed is taken, b) sufficient scientific evidence is obtained allowing for the development of clear regulations set by the Galapagos National Park Service (e.g. intensity, seasonality, zonation, licensing).
· The State Party consider implementing a mechanism, such as imposing an upper limit to the number of Park entrance permits awarded annually, which would give it the time to develop and implement effective tourism management mechanisms.
3. Ensure that that the decisions taken by the new Governing Council of the Galapagos prioritise consideration of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property (corrective measure c).
· Ensure that the recruitment process for the director of operations of the Governing Council is as fully transparent and competence-based as that of other key positions including the Director of GNPS and Agrocalidad.
· Ensure a clear line of communication between the Governing Council and the Director of GNPS with regard to the management of the National Park and Marine Reserve, as well as on all policies affecting the Park.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that until these remaining corrective measures are achieved, the property should remain on the List of World Heritage in Danger.