Ecuador intensifies actions to reduce risks from ship stranding in Galápagos Islands
On Wednesday, 28 January, the cargo ship Floreana stranded near San Cristobal, an island that is part of the Galápagos islands World Heritage site.
The vessel transported 1,400 tons of cargo and 50,000 liters of fuel among other, potentially hazardous, products. Accordingly to early government reports, products leaked from the ship. Actions are being taken to define the impacts on the marine surroundings and to reduce the possible environmental risks the discharge of pollutions could cause. Special barrier and absorbent materials are being placed around the vessel and teams are removing the cargo from the vessel. Water samples have been taken by the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park and are currently being investigated. Following the events, the Government of Galápagos declared an environmental emergency on 4 February 2015.
The Galápagos Islands was the first site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was listed in 1978 for its unusual and globally unique biodiversity. The boundaries were extended in 2001 to include its vast marine reserve commonly known as a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Its geographical location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world while ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the islands formation. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual plant and animal life – such as marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, huge cacti, endemic trees and many different subspecies of mockingbirds and finches – all of which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.
During its 38th Session in Doha, the World Heritage Committee urged the State Party of Ecuador to sustain its efforts putting in place the biosecurity infrastructure for the islands, with a particular focus on the requirements to rigorously apply international biosecurity standards for cargo ships.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.32, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),
- Welcomes the progress achieved by the State Party in implementing the recommendations of the 2010 World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission;
- Urges the State Party to sustain its efforts to fully implement all of the recommendations of the 2010 reactive monitoring mission, in particular putting in place the biosecurity infrastructure for the islands, with a particular focus on the requirements to rigorously apply international biosecurity standards both for cargo ships, and for loading and offloading facilities;
- Notes with concern that despite the reported implementation of a sustainable tourism strategy, visitor numbers continue to increase rapidly, and also urges the State Party to complement a comprehensive tourism strategy with the necessary enforcement of regulatory and monitoring instruments to achieve long-term sustainable tourism for the property as a whole;
- Also welcomes the State Party efforts to ban sport fishing in the property and strongly encourages it to closely monitoring the regulation to ensure that artisanal experiential fishing remains the only tourist activity involving fishing;
- Also encourages the State Party to finish and effectively implement its Sustainable Development and Zoning Plan as an instrument to provide integral management of the archipelago and to ensure conservation of its Outstanding Universal Value, and requests the State Party to provide an electronic and three printed copies of the draft revised management plan, including the zoning plans, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.