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

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Corrective measures identified

A large number of different individual activities are grouped under the following 15 main components:

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;

b) Optimizing of resources allocated to the Galápagos conservation agencies, particularly in relation to GNP (Galápagos National Park), INGALA (Instituto Nacional Galápagos/ National Institute for Galápagos) and SESA (Servicio Ecuatoriano de Sanidad Agropecuaria - Ecuadorian Animal and Plant Inspection Service);

c) Strengthening of the selection process for the highest ranking posts in INGALA and SESA;

d) Reducing significantly the number of illegal immigrants in the Galápagos Islands, and the resulting impacts of unregulated population growth;

e) Regulating recreational fishing activities;

f) Controlling the number of tourists coming to the Galápagos Islands;

g) Applying regulations on inspecting and fumigating aircrafts;

h) Applying quarantine measures and the phytosanitary practices in cruisers and freighters both between the islands and between the mainland and Galápagos;

i) Counteracting the overexploitation of fish resources and providing opportunities for alternative employment for the small-scale fishing sector;

j) Counteracting opportunities for the dispersal of invasive species through movement of people and freight between islands and between the mainland and Galápagos;

k) Increasing staff and infrastructure at departure points on the mainland and entry points on the Galápagos for effective inspections;

l) Ensuring that cabotage boats meet the basic conditions for cargo and food transportation, decreasing the risk of introduction of invasive species;

m) Planning and implementing a capacity-building strategy among local residents to enable them to be better prepared to undertake technical or professional work traditionally done by foreigners;

n) Implementing the Integral Educational Reform which had been in the LOREG (Organic Law for the Species Regimen for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Galápagos) since 1998 yet without realisation;

o) Building capacity for early detection and eradication of invasive species arriving from the mainland or other islands.

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Time frames for the various activities of the Action Plan range from 2007 to 2012.

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: UNESCO / IUCN mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson); June 2003: UNESCO mission; April 2005: UNESCO informal visit; February-March 2006: UNESCO / IUCN mission; April 2007: UNESCO / IUCN mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson); April 2009: UNESCO informal visit.  

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Inadequate implementation of the Special Law on Galápagos and lack of enforcement;

b) Poor governance;

c) Inadequate and ineffective quarantine measures;

d) Illegal fishing;

e) Instability of Park Director’s position;

f) High immigration rate;

g) Unsustainable 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 2009

The principal threat to this property’s Outstanding Universal Value arises from the breakdown of its ecological isolation due to the growing population in the islands. The resulting increase in transport of goods and people between the continent and the islands, and between islands opens up many opportunities for the introduction of alien species, which displace and/or predate native and endemic Galapagos species. Additional threats are linked to excessive fishing pressures in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), whereby uncontrolled fisheries led to the severe depletion of key commercial species. Growing institutional instability further eroded the integrity of the property, as governmental agencies could not fulfil their conservation related mandates. These conditions led to the inscription of the property onto the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2007, following the request of the State Party.

On 13 February 2009 the World Heritage Centre received a substantial state of conservation report for this property. It outlines key actions implemented during 2008 towards achieving the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee, providing quantitative information on trends for various indicators.

Based on the information provided in the State Party report and the other information gathered, following progress towards the implementation of the corrective measures can be noted:

 

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

Modest improvements have been made, but a significant issue remains. The total number of continental departure points and island access points has been decreased to 13, although this is far more than the one central air and marine access point in Galapagos recommended by the 2006 World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission. Fewer access points allow for the concentration of necessary modern phytosanitary inspection and control infrastructure investments (port facilities, storage of fresh goods, fumigation, baggage control, aircraft control etc.)

 

b) Optimizing of resources allocated to the Galápagos conservation agencies

The regularization of 154 GNP staff is reported along with the achievement of the USD 15 million capitalization target of the Introduced Species Trust Fund.  In 2008, the GNP received USD 5.04 million, and another USD 630,000 were provided for GMR management from the Park entrance fee. Furthermore, USD 3 million of compensation for the environmental damage caused by the fuel spill of the tanker Jessica in 2001 was obtained and will be invested in key management and conservation activities in GNP and GMR. The SESA - Ecuadorian Animal and Plant Inspection Service) remains chronically underfunded and understaffed. The State Party report makes no mention on establishing a cost recovery system for the services of SESA, as recommended in the 2006 World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission report.  

c) Strengthening of the selection process for the highest ranking posts in INGALA and SESA

No mention is made of efforts under this corrective measure.

d) Reducing significantly the number of illegal immigrants in the Galápagos Islands

Significant effort has been made in systematizing the tracking of permanent and temporary residents, and tourists by the use of computerized Transit Cards. This system has already demonstrated its efficacy, having led to the identification and repatriation of several hundred people. If effectively applied and strictly adhered to, it promises to help control the presence of non-authorized people in the islands. Over 5,000 people received “temporary resident” status in 2007-2008. This status is typically granted to people coming to Galapagos to fill a labour gap. For example, of the 1,980 jobs posted in Galapagos in 2008, only 150 were filled by permanent residents (13%).

e) Regulating recreational fishing activities

Progress is reported under the system of concessions being developed for recreational fishing, though it is still too early to gauge its effectiveness.  

f) Controlling the number of tourists coming to the Galápagos Islands

The State Party report notes that during 2008, 173,420 persons entered Galapagos, which represents a nearly 100% increase since 2003. Only 52% embarked on a cruise, indicating a very rapid growth of non-cruise visitation (some of which is not tourism related – e.g. family visits, short term business).  Land based visitation is increasing due to the promotion of relatively cheap land based (non-cruise) tour packages not necessarily focusing on the traditional distinctive attributes of Galapagos. Though the number of boat based tourists has increased by 36% in the past 5 years (explained by higher occupation rates, shorter cruises and a higher turnover of clients, as the total boat based capacity has not increased significantly), hotel based visitation has increased by over 450%. The number of hotel rooms available in Galapagos increased by 12% in the past twelve months, according to Galapagos Chamber of Tourism.

g) Applying regulations on inspecting and fumigating aircraft

This objective appears to have largely been met, according to the State Party report, which provides quantitative data on the implementation of phytosanitary activities, such as i) the carrying out of 8,831 inspections in aircraft and ships; ii) inspection of cargo on board 1,159 inter-island flights.  

h) Quarantine measures and the phytosanitary practices in cruisers and freighters

The State Party reports that aircraft and ships are being sprayed with insecticides, and that inspection rates are up. Strict record keeping in this regard is in place. There is a continued lack of port facilities meeting strict phytosanitary protocols in Guayaquil. The SESA plan for such facilities is a first step, but until they exist, a major entry point for alien species remains open and not under effective control at Guayaquil.

i) Counteracting the overexploitation of fish resources and providing opportunities for alternative employment for the small-scale fishing sector

There is progress in regards to structuring marine related tourism activities for which fishermen will have priority access. The Fishery Registry was purged by eliminating 113 fishers and ten vessels that had not been active for three consecutive years. In addition, 56 fishers and ten fishing vessels are now exclusively devoted to artisanal fishing tours whereas 50 fishers are now trained as Dive Masters, authorized to work alongside the tourism sector.

j) Counteracting opportunities for the dispersal of invasive species

Initial efforts in terms of the application of phytosanitary protocols to ships have been made. In 2008 SESA confiscated a total of 2,661 non-permitted or restricted products that were in poor condition or pest infested, representing a 21% increase over 2007. An “Optimal Cargo Transportation System” was approved for implementation in April 2008 and a coordinator has been hired to implement it. There is no information on attempts to reduce the number of ships, or number of ports visited, nor the frequency of visitation.

k) Increasing staff and infrastructure at departure points on the mainland and entry points on the Galápagos for effective inspections

The State Party report indicated that total staff numbers at SESA is 46, but claims that the actual number required is “much larger”. Given that SESA must maintain inspection capacity in a total of 13 distinct aircraft and marine entry and departure points, along with maintaining the capacity to carry out monitoring activities elsewhere, numbers are indeed extremely limited.

l) Ensuring that cabotage boats meet the basic conditions for cargo and food transportation

Inspections for inter-island transport have increased, and the rate of product decommissioning has increased. There is no information on technical specifications required on inter-island transport of goods (e.g. refrigeration, regular decontamination, authorized docking facilities).

m) Capacity-building strategy among local residents

The most notable effort is linked to the eventual establishment of a vocational training institute in Galapagos, focusing on skill-sets in demand in the islands. The vocational training institute is not yet operational, but should be a priority. There is a growing number of private universities establishing campuses in Galapagos, or expressing an interest in doing so, although these are understood to primarily target English language students.

n) Integral Educational Reform

Implementation of the reform is a shared responsibility of several government and non-government agencies, including UNESCO, with whom the Ministry of Education has signed a memorandum of understanding to this effect.  Several substantial activities were implemented in 2008 indicating that significant progress is underway, though important overall financing remains a challenge. Recent discoveries of 104 giant turtle carcasses killed for meat on Isabela Island near the town of Villamil attests to the urgent need to implement targeted Galapagos adapted education reform.

o) Building capacity for early detection and eradication of invasive

The early pest detection and control system was activated as of August 2008, when the GNP, SESA-SICGAL, and other entities joined forces to control and eradicate the recently detected Mediterranean fruit fly.  Latest monitoring results reveal significantly reduced numbers, but an ongoing presence. The exotic freshwater tilapia fish, found in El Junco Lake less than ten years ago, is reported to have been eradicated. CDF has reported the first sighting of the “bigheaded ant” (Pheidole megacephala) in 2008, considered one of the world’s most invasive ant species by IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group. This ant is known to displace native species. Studies on the introduced Philornis downsi bird parasite, first detected in 1964, have revealed that it is present in up 97% of Darwin’s finch nests, causing an average 50% mortality in nestlings. It has spread through at least eleven islands and is considered a major factor in the shrinking population trend of several Galapagos bird species, leading to potential extinction.

In addition to the points above, the State Party report explains that the new constitution for Ecuador, adopted on 20 October 2008, contains special provisions for Galapagos. Though it will remain a province within Ecuador, it is to be governed no longer by an elected provincial prefect, but rather by a Governing Council, presided over by a representative of the national president, and comprised of the municipal mayors, and representatives of other settlements. It is not clear how the mandate for the conservation of the National Park lands (97% of the land surface in Galapagos) and of the Marine Reserve will be articulated with this new Governing Council.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN take note of the depth of information provided within the State Party’s report and a number of other sources of information. The regularization of staff and achievement of the capitalization target of the Introduced Species Trust Fund are amongst a number of key points noted above that deserve commendation. The State Party has invested heavily in the implementation of many necessary actions. If sustained, these are likely to result in measurable progress in reversing some of the trends that have led to the property’s inscription onto the List of World Heritage in Danger. If complemented with actions focusing on areas of continuing concern, and if resulting in measurable improvements, it is anticipated that there should be growing scope for consideration of the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger within the next three-five years. IUCN notes that this is also the timescale anticipated in the official Action Plan prepared by the Minister of the Environment at the time of the 2007 reactive monitoring mission.

Despite the positive action on several fronts, the reports also indicate the significant challenges that remain to Galapagos and indicate the need for consolidation of efforts in a number of key areas. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note with satisfaction that the levels of cruise based tourism and fishing have stabilized and no longer appear to constitute a growing major attraction for economic migrants. However, despite the successes in controlling fishing and cruise ship industries, there is concern over the reported 450% surge in hotel based visitation in the past five years. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that this trend will not be able to be managed under the current framework of laws and regulations being implemented in Galapagos. As a result, given the link between rapid economic growth, immigration and introduced species, the issue of land based visitation emerges as the most fundamentally challenging and immediate threat to the long-term conservation of the islands. The lack of a clear Galapagos policy on tourism that is strictly linked to conservation, and the absence of any control measures on numbers of arrivals is laying the foundation of future major threats to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, undermining the significant efforts made to date by the State Party.

Additional points requiring attention are noted by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN as follows:  

a) The establishment of one central access port to Galapagos remains a requirement. The 13 entry and departure points of the current transportation system is a critical design flaw that will permanently undermine all other introduced species control efforts.

b) The Invasive Species Trust Fund needs to be made operational. It is important to ensure that its resources should be strictly limited to dealing with introduced species concerns and not to supplant regular operations of government agencies.

c) Adequate funding and staffing needs to be provided to SESA.  As the control and eradication of new species is much costlier than preventing their arrival in the first place, the lack of capacity of SESA continues to be a major gap in the State Party response to the threat of introduced species.

d) Further investment in strengthening the application and effectiveness of the Transit Card system is strongly recommended. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned over the level of use of “temporary resident” status and measures are needed to ensure this is not a loophole through which immigration control will be seriously undermined.  

e) The tourism concession system requires a strong process of implementation, noting this could be challenging, especially in relation to de-facto recreational fishing operations implemented without permission.

f) Confirmation is required that the new constitution will strengthen the role of the Galapagos National Park service in the management of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note that the State Party has not developed a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, as requested by the Decision 31 COM 7B.35 and reiterated by the Decision 32 COM 7A.13. These statements are essential to establish a framework within which if can be assessed at what point the conditions are in place for removing this property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. It would be beneficial to focus on their establishment as a priority for the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee, and IUCN is in a position to provide technical advice on these matters to the State Party.

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7A.13

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7A.13, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Acknowledges and commends the progress made by the State Party on the implementation of some of the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) and included in the Action Plan produced in response to the Presidential Decree No. 270;

4. Notes with concern the continued threats to the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property, arising from very rapid growth of land based tourism and from invasive alien species;

5. Invites the State Party to continue to strengthen its efforts on the implementation of all of the corrective measures established for the property;

6. Reiterates its request to the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, to develop 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, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010. The State Party is encouraged, if it wishes to do so, to prepare and submit an International Assistant request to support this process;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property, with particular emphasis on the identified corrective measures in its 15 point Action Plan and on its response to land based visitation trends, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010. The report should also address how corrective measures are contributing to addressing the requirements associated to the anticipated Statement of Outstanding Universal Value and the anticipated desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger;

8. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ IUCN reactive monitoring mission to assess progress made on the implementation of the decisions of the Committee;

9. Decides to retain the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-09/33.COM/7A, WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Add and WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Corr),

2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: