The State Party submitted two reports to the World Heritage Centre in the past year. A first report (in Spanish) was received in November 2007, including 31 annexes, and noted progress made in implementing the corrective measures of the Action Plan produced in response to the Presidential Decree No. 270. In February 2008, the State Party submitted a further report on the state of conservation of the property to the World Heritage Centre (again in Spanish), including updated information on the implementation of the Action Plan. The February report includes 9 annexes on the different agreements, resolutions and new regulations that have been recently approved and which support several key actions. These include:
· Decision-making on key planning and management issues has been transferred to local bodies; to this end, various institutions like the Council of INGALA and its respective Technical Committees and the Inter-institutional Management Authority (AIM in Spanish) have been reactivated. These and other bodies have adopted resolutions, plans and regulations which focus on dealing with a number of the above-noted issues, including approval of the Plan for the Total Control of Introduced Species, the regulations on migratory control, a moratorium on the import of vehicles, prohibition of aircraft landings arriving from airports other than Quito or Guayaquil.
§ At the national level, instruments for integrated planning have been developed - amongst them the National Development Plan for 2007-2010 which includes a specific plan for Galápagos.
§ Important achievements were made in the control and eradication of introduced species. The report notes that 2936 goats, 45 pigs, 135 donkeys and 56 cows were removed from various islands between December 2007 and January 2008. A campaign has been started to eradicate black rats with a pilot phase underway in the Island of Seymour Norte, while the eradication of the Tilapia fish from the El Junco lake was reported as being underway in early 2008 – by February 40,000 fish were removed from this very small lake and monitoring continues. The appearance of goats on islands previously devoid of them represents a worrisome trend which could jeopardize massive investments previously made in goat removal. The mysterious January 2008 killing of 53 sea lions for no apparent reason adds to this concern.
§ Since September 2007, the Galápagos Invasive Species Fund (GISF) started its capitalization process with USD 1 million received by the Ecuadorian Government and USD 2.19 million raised under the auspices of the World Heritage Centre project supported by the United Nations Foundation, Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund and the Galapagos Conservancy. The capitalization target for the GISF is set at USD 15 million.
§ Further work on the restoration of ecosystems and the population of key threatened species has been carried out, including of giant turtles on Isabela Island. A plan for the ecological restoration of Pinta Island has been prepared and its implementation started in March 2008.
§ Actions on fisheries have been focussing on the development of a draft chapter on fisheries management which will form part of the management plan of the Marine Reserve of Galápagos. This is being discussed with the fisheries cooperatives for their endorsement before it is submitted for approval. The World Heritage Centre’s project “Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape” has supported work with fishermen in establishing small no-take zones, along with studying the feasibility of relinquishing fishing rights in limited sensitive areas in exchange for facilitating access to credit for shifting to non-extractive activities.
§ Measures with regard to tourism management have focussed on a) the development of regulations for specific tourism activities; b) the development of a study on carrying capacity for ecotourism that started in September 2007 and aims to establish the optimal number of tourism operations on every island; c) a capacity building needs assessment, which was conducted to establish a system of continuing training for natural guides working in the Galápagos National Park; d) satellite based tracking of cruise ships is being implemented, which will facilitate monitoring of cruise ship movements, ensuring they respect pre-approved itineraries; e) anchoring buoys are being developed to prevent further damages of lying anchors on sensitive sea bottoms and f) the Direction of the Galápagos National Park initiated a participatory process to establish a new model of tourism for the archipelago and a system of tourism concessions. With international assistance from the USAID a workshop on tourism management was implemented in October 2007 to discuss the design and further establishment of a new system of tourism concessions. The World Heritage Centre supported work in this area with a USD 40,000 grant in December 2007.
§ Immigration control has been enforced through the application of the Special Regulation of Qualification and Control of Residence (since September 2007), and the implementation of a “Personal Card for Transit Control” which will help to identify people trying to stay in the islands over the maximum time (90 days) permitted by the law.
§ On 20 December 2007, the Ministry of Education signed an agreement with UNESCO Quito office to reform the educational system on the Galápagos Islands. Financing is currently being sought for this initiative.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note with satisfaction that the technical capacity of the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation has developed tremendously over the years and together, with the necessary resources, these organizations appear able to overcome many of the management challenges related to introduced species and to ecological restoration. However, the underlying socio-economic and political contexts remain difficult and promoting positive movement in these areas will require a much broader and sustained approach from the various government agencies and the civil society. In this regard, there are a number of issues that remain to be fully addressed:
§ Whilst the State Party report notes progress on the issues mentioned above it is not yet clear how these actions are leading, or will lead to actual changes in the field. Most of the actions implemented so far are predominantly process-oriented and many of them remain to be formally approved. No information on deadlines is included in the report. The report does not provide evidence on whether or how some of these actions have been implemented. The need for the State Party to move rapidly from planning to the actual approval and implementation of activities must be emphasized.
§ Whilst the report notes that around 2,000 people have regularized their residence status through the application of the Special Regulation of Qualification and Control of Residence; there is no information on how many illegal immigrants have been identified and what policy will be adopted in their regard; thus making it difficult to assess the actual impacts of this regulation in limiting the population growth through immigration.
§ In March 2008, the Director of the Galápagos National Park was removed from her position and an interim director was appointed. The instability of the Park’s Director position, and the rapid succession of 12 Directors and interim Directors over a 3 year period (2002-2006) was a major cause of concern at the time and a key management issue linked to poor governance and inadequate implementation of conservation and management programmes.