The Bureau recalled that the Committee at its twenty-first session invited the Government of Ecuador to notify in a timely fashion, the Chairperson of the Committee of the final enactment and entering into force of the Galapagos Special Law. The Committee, although it did not include the site in the List of World Heritage in Danger, decided that if, by the opening date of the twenty-second session of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee, the Government of Ecuador had not notified the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee of the enactment and entry into force of the “Special Galapagos Law”, then the Galapagos Islands be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Permanent Delegate of Ecuador to UNESCO, via his letter of 22 April 1998, transmitted a copy of the “Special Law on the Galapagos”, published by the Official Registry of Ecuador as Law No. 278 on 18 March 1998, to the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee. At a meeting between the Ambassador of Ecuador, the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee and the Director of the Centre, the Chairperson took note of the official notification and commended the Government of Ecuador for its efforts. The Chairperson however, stressed the importance of ensuring effective implementation of the Special Law to protect this World Heritage site.
IUCN, in its report to the Centre on the state of conservation of Galapagos, has pointed out that the Law, if implemented, will greatly strengthen conservation in both the islands as well as in the surrounding marine reserve, which was extended from 24 to 64 km offshore. The Law addresses most of the major issues (particularly alien species and management of the marine reserve) relating to conservation and sustainable development of Galapagos and has been drafted on the basis of the outcome of an intense national debate. The main highlights of the Law and the evaluation of its effectiveness have been provided by the Charles Darwin Foundation, and include: (i) Regulations with regard to the control of introduced species, their eradication in agricultural lands, establishment of a quarantine inspection system, etc; (ii) incentives for local appreciation and participation through environmental education; (iii) building local skills and conservation institutions, in particular strengthening of the GNPS; (iv) improving inter-agency co-ordination through the work of INGALA (Instituto National de Galapagos) which has been re-established; (v) immigration and residence control measures to stabilise the rate of growth of human population size; and (vi) initiating a participatory planning process for marine resources conservation.
The Law also provides for: (a) the Establishment of the Marine Reserve as a protected area and (b) the expansion of the Reserve boundaries to 64 km around the whole archipelago within which area only tourism and artisanal fishing are permitted. The provisions of the Law concerning marine areas have provided a historic opportunity for conserving 130,000 sq. km of a very important marine ecosystem.
The Bureau commended the Government of Ecuador and all the agencies, groups, local residents and experts for reaching a consensus on this new Law. The Bureau thanked the former Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Mr. Winkelmann and the Director of the Centre for having initiated the process through their mission to the site in June 1996.
The Bureau urged the Ecuadorian authorities to ensure the effective implementation of the Law. The Bureau invited the Ecuadorian authorities to re-nominate the Marine Reserve, deferred by the Committee in 1994, to be a part of the World Heritage site as soon as the management plan for the Marine Reserve is finalised in 1999. The Bureau recommended that the Committee not consider Galapagos Islands for inclusion in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Delegate of Ecuador thanked the World Heritage Committee, its Bureau, IUCN and the Centre for their understanding and commitment to preserve the Galapagos Islands World Heritage site. The full text of his statement is included in Annex V.
The Bureau also expressed its sincere regrets and sympathies to the families of the two senior Ecuadorian conservationists (Jorge Anhalzer and Fabricio Valverde) who perished in a plane crash after returning from a conservation meeting of the Islands.