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Galápagos Islands

Ecuador
Factors affecting the property in 2001*
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Invasive / alien marine species
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Fire (issue resolved);
  • Limited protected area;
  • Over fishing;
  • Tourist pressure;
  • Lack of financial resources;
  • Need of a special law (issue resolved)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2001
Requests approved: 25 (from 1979-2001)
Total amount approved : 567,850 USD
2001 Emergency assistance request for Galapagos Islands ... (Approved)   50,000 USD
1998 Ecological Monitoring in the Galapagos Archipelago - ... (Approved)   92,500 USD
1998 Urgent development of ecological monitoring through a ... (Approved)   20,000 USD
1996 Preparation of Interpretation Materials for the ... (Not approved)   0 USD
1994 Fire figthing equipment for Galapagos (Approved)   50,000 USD
1992 Revision of the management plan for Galapagos Islands (Approved)   29,000 USD
1992 One fellowship for an officer from the Galapagos ... (Approved)   3,100 USD
1992 Support to 3 resource persons and organization of a ... (Approved)   15,000 USD
1992 Financial contribution to a training course organized ... (Approved)   20,000 USD
1990 Training in Costa Rica of one specialist from the ... (Approved)   2,000 USD
1990 Study to investigate the impacts of tourism on ... (Approved)   14,000 USD
1989 Purchase of 2 motor-boats and spare parts, as well as ... (Approved)   59,500 USD
1989 Financial contribution to the Charles Darwin Foundation ... (Approved)   20,000 USD
1989 One study grant enabling the superintendent of ... (Approved)   4,000 USD
1988 Purchase of 4 boats for strengthening the protection of ... (Approved)   54,000 USD
1988 Consultancy services for reviewing and preparing a ... (Approved)   4,250 USD
1987 1.5 month consultancy mission to follow-up the zoning ... (Approved)   2,500 USD
1987 Contribution to consultancy mission for the development ... (Approved)   2,000 USD
1987 Provision of 2 experts for 3.5 months to advise on the ... (Approved)   15,000 USD
1986 Financial support to the environmental education and ... (Approved)   20,000 USD
1985 Contribution to the training of an environmental ... (Approved)   2,500 USD
1985 4-month training in management of protected areas ... (Approved)   6,000 USD
1985 Contribution to purchase of equipment for Galapagos ... (Approved)   10,500 USD
1982 Financial contribution to a training course organised ... (Approved)   10,000 USD
1979 Purchase of equipment to eliminate invasive species in ... (Approved)   50,000 USD
1979 Training seminar in the Galapagos (Approved)   12,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2001**

June 1996: fact-finding mission

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2001

Previous deliberations:
Twenty-third ordinary session of the Bureau – paragraph IV.32
Twenty-third session of the Committee – paragraph X.28 and Annex VIII
Twenty-fourth ordinary session of the Bureau – paragraph IV.29
Twenty-fourth extraordinary session of the Bureau – paragraph III.1 iii)
Twenty-fourth session of the Committee – paragraph VIII.25 / Annex X page 113.

Main issues: control and eradication of introduced species, awareness building among local people and participatory planning processes, immigration control, legal protection and implementation of Galapagos law, oil spill in January 2001.

New information: On 16 January 2001, the Ecuadorian oil tanker Jessica ran aground at the entry to the port of Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal island. It was carrying 160,000 gallons of diesel oil and 80,000 gallons of bunker fuel. Most of the oil leaked into the sea covering an area of 3,000km2 reaching the shores of the islands of Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela. Species affected by the oil include sea lions, marine birds, sea turtles and iguanas. Given the quantity of fuel spilled, the immediate impacts could have been far worse, but the currents and winds carried most of the oil into deeper offshore waters where it was dispersed and evaporated. Nevertheless, continuous monitoring is needed in order to determine the possible medium- and long-term impacts to the ecosystem. The Government of Ecuador requested emergency assistance from the World Heritage Fund for mitigation activities, which was approved by the Chair for an amount of US$ 50,000. Additional assistance of US$ 25,000 was received from UNESCO Participation Programme.

IUCN notes that initial reports of damage were alarming but through a combination of manpower, technology, ocean currents and favourable weather conditions, the spill appears only to have caused minor short-term damage.  Wildlife mortality was low when wind and current took the fuel out to sea where it dispersed.  Full effects on the marine resources of the area will not be known until longer term monitoring studies are completed but damage to date appear to be minimal. The accident, that has proved to be caused by negligence, triggered the preparation of work on a contingency plan for future emergencies and has led to efforts to improve the regulatory framework to minimise future hazards.  Handling of the spill cost the Ecuador Government several million dollars, part of which was covered by external assistance.  The Jessica remains stranded, the Captain has been charged, and insurance compensation is being sought.  Suggestions have been made by WWF and others that the Ecuadorian Government should designate the Galapagos Marine Reserve as a “particularly sensitive sea area” (PSSA) under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).  The benefits of such an initiative are being studied by INGALA and Ecuador Maritime authorities.

IUCN notes similarities between this situation and that on the Great Barrier Reef. IUCN emphasises the importance of compulsory pilotage in environmentally sensitive areas such as World Heritage sites and also the importance of having effective emergency response strategies in place to enable prompt and effective response to issues such as the oil spill in Galapagos.

IUCN notes that the specific regulations under the Special Law, including fisheries, tourism, environmental control, and introduced species/agriculture, are still awaited and views this as a very high priority matter.  Drafts of the regulations are in an advanced stage and are expected to be approved before July 2001. Without the regulations in place, progress has been limited in controlling immigration, limiting fishery seasons and catches, and preventing illegal commercial fishing.  Both the Navy and the marine unit of the GNP have intercepted a number of vessels and discouraged others but prosecutions have been few and illegal fishing continues.  Even worse, the Navy has allowed the release of several seized vessels which has implicated them in the illegal fishing business and reduced the Government’s credibility in enforcing the law.  This was further weakened during the fishermen's strike of November 2000 where intimidation of Park staff and violent action lead to the Government backing down on quota limits.

Annual monitoring reports on the illegal commercial fisheries in the Marine Reserve show that many thousands of sharks have been taken out of Galapagos waters and that long-lining for other finfish has had severe effects on many other species.  Moreover, the loosely regulated controls on sea cucumber harvesting have led to a precipitous decline in the population, which may never recover to sustainable levels.  Despite areas of progress, the lack of sufficient enforcement has led to a continued over-fishing which is a major threat to the Galapagos marine environment.

On the positive side, two key actions are expected soon that will set a much firmer basis for addressing the issues.  First is the passage of the regulations that will clearly specify what limits are on fisheries, immigration, etc., and will allow more effective application of the Special Law.  Second is the IDB loan for implementing the Galapagos Marine Reserve plan that devotes US$4 million to strengthening the control and security system.  There is also a growing public feeling within Ecuador to address illegal fishing activities more firmly, which, with the added resources and resolve of the State Party, could lead to a reduction in further damage.  Commitment at the central political level, however, is a fundamental prerequisite.  Any revisions to the Special Law that would weaken it would be very detrimental to the participatory process that agreed to it.

The Centre received a letter from the Minister of Environment to the Director-General of UNESCO dated 12 April 2001 with a report on the follow-up actions taken on the oil spill. The letter also includes details of the international assistance received from private organizations, bilateral co-operation and in kind donations from Governments to assist the Ecuadorian authorities. The donations amounted to a total of US$ 666,187 without the contributions from UNESCO and the World Heritage Fund. The report was transmitted to IUCN for review.

Action Required

The Bureau notes with concern the impacts of the oil spill of the tanker Jessica and acknowledges with appreciation the efforts of the State Party and the International Community in relation to the clean-up and rescue activities following the oil spill caused by the tanker. The Bureau encourages the State Party to expedite regulations to implement the Special Law for Galapagos and to enforce their implementation as soon as possible.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2001

IUCN received, on 10 October, a progress report from the Director of the Charles Darwin Research Station noting the implementation of a number of programmes aiming to enhance the institutional capacity of the Park Administration.  The report also noted the status of regulations concerning tourism, fisheries and quarantine, as well as progress achieved in the preparation of the Strategy 2010 for the Sustainable Development of the Islands.

 

Galapagos Special Law: On 18 September, 2001, Ecuador's Constitutional Court voted in favour of the Galapagos Special Law, one day after, a public inquiry was held in response to a lawsuit brought forward by the Association of Industrial Tuna Fishermen (ATUNEC), which challenged the Special Law's constitutionality.  The final decision of the Constitutional Court Judges - eight votes in favour and one abstention - represents an important achievement in the continued efforts to protect the Galapagos Islands under the regulations of the Special Law. Since its approval in March 1998, the Galapagos Special Law has faced continued attacks, primarily from the industrial fishing sector based in continental Ecuador, which seeks fishing rights inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve (proposed in entirety as an extension to the World Heritage site). The Special Law granted exclusive fishing rights in the Marine Reserve to artisan fishermen and calls for a system of quotes and zoning to control fisheries. However, the Special Law can only be fully enforced after having approved all the regulations and by-laws on key management issues such as fisheries.

According to information received, dated 19 September 2001, two of the key regulations (on tourism and fisheries) are likely to be approved by the President’s Office by the end of November. The third regulation on quarantine, introduced species and agriculture is in the process of local consultation. The fourth regulation, which covers Environmental Management and pollution issues, is the least advanced.

 

Enforcement and Control of the Marine Reserve:Earlier this year, the vessel Sirenian, owned and operated by the environmental NGO Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, commenced a five-year tour of duty to help the Galapagos National Park Service clamp down on illegal commercial fishing operations within 40 miles of the Islands.  This collaborative operation, given a favourable ruling by the Ecuadorian Court, is the first conservation patrol of the Galapagos by a foreign vessel officially supported by the Ecuadorian Government. A loan by the Inter-American Development Bank for 10 million US$ has been approved for enforcing controls in the Marine Reserve. Logistical assistance and institutional strengthening are the two most important elements of this project. Galapagos National Park hopes to purchase four more boats and a helicopter to cover the whole area. At the moment, the Park possesses two vessels, ten speedboats, twelve wooden boats and personnel of 50 to patrol the 133,000 km2 marine area. Despite the assistance of the Ecuadorian Navy, this is clearly not sufficient. Only 5% of entrance fees to the GNP are directed towards controlling the Reserve.

 

Illegal shark fishing: The destructive fishing of sharks, where the shark fin is cut from the live shark and the mutilated animal is dumped back into the sea, continues in the Galapagos Marine Reserve due to the high demand for shark fins for the Asian market. The fishing techniques used also negatively affect other species, including marine birds. During 2001, 22 fishing boats were caught, 5,600 shark fins confiscated and 3,000 pounds of meat seized. According to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society half the boats caught fishing illegally in the Galapagos were not punished. But progress on this matter has been made: Canela II, a Costa Rican long liner caught fishing out of the port of Puntarenas, was confiscated by the Local Court of Galapagos and the order was upheld by the Court of Appeal. This is a legal precedent, as never before in Ecuadorian legal history has a fishing boat been confiscated for illegal fishing.

 

Sea Lion Poaching: On the 16 July fifteen (11 male and 4 female) mutilated sea lion corpses- Zalophus wollebaeki - were discovered on La Loberia beach on San Cristobal Island. This is the first time such action has been reported in the Galapagos Islands. The Charles Darwin Research Station, Galapagos National Park Service and a veterinarian of the Araucaria Foundation undertook autopsies of nine of the animals. The autopsy report makes the link between the incident and the increasing demand from Asian markets for the male genitals of sea lions and seals for use in traditional medicine, as aphrodisiacs and amulets.

 

Invasive Species Eradication Programme: IUCN notes that in early 2002, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service will commence a five-year programme to combat invasive species.  Funding of US$18 million is being provided over six years from the United Nations and GEF, while other sources are estimated to amount to US$19 million.  Biologists and Park staff will use a combination of measures to remove some alien species, make a dent in other populations, and bolster controls to keep other exotics out of the Islands. It is hoped that the holistic approach will set an example for other places combating invasive species.   The Station and Park are in the final months of intensive monitoring to confirm the eradication of pigs from Santiago Island.  This follows decades of work involving a range of control methods, a highly trained ranger team and GPS/GIS technology.

 

Tourism: Progress has also been reported on the SmartVoyager certification programme, a joint initiative of the Rainforest Alliance and Conservacion y Desarrollo (C&D) of Ecuador.  The programme aims to give a “green seal” of approval to tour boats operating in the Galapagos Archipelago that meet certain environmental and social criteria. Full details of the certification programme can be found at: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/programs/sv/ objectives.html

 

Despite continuing threats, progress is being made in the protection of the site with support from civil society, which is very conscious of the value of Galapagos Islands and the Marine Reserve.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2001
25 BUR V.130-137
Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

V.130     The Bureau was informed that on 16 January 2001, the Ecuadorian oil tanker Jessica ran aground at the entry to the port of Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island. It was carrying 160,000 gallons of diesel oil and 80,000 gallons of bunker fuel. Most of the oil leaked into the sea covering an area of 3,000km2 reaching the shores of the Islands of Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela. Species affected by the oil include sea lions, marine birds, sea turtles and iguanas. Given the quantity of fuel spilled, the immediate impacts could have been far worse, but the currents and winds carried most of the oil into deeper offshore waters where it was dispersed. Nevertheless, continuous monitoring is needed in order to determine the possible medium- and long-term impacts to the ecosystem, although the damage to date appears to be minimal. The accident, that has proved to be caused by negligence, triggered the preparation of work on a contingency plan for future emergencies and has led to efforts to improve the regulatory framework to minimise future hazards. Handling of the spill costs the Ecuador Government several million dollars, part of which was covered by external assistance.

V.131     The Jessica remains grounded, the Captain has been charged, and insurance compensation is being sought.  Suggestions have been made by WWF and others that the Ecuadorian Government should designate the Galapagos Marine Reserve as a “particularly sensitive sea area” (PSSA) under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).  The benefits of such an initiative are being studied by INGALA and the Ecuador Maritime authorities. IUCN noted similarities between this situation and that of the Great Barrier Reef. IUCN emphasised the importance of compulsory pilotage in environmentally sensitive areas such as World Heritage sites and also the importance of having effective emergency response strategies in place to enable prompt and effective action to issues such as the oil spill in Galapagos.

V.132     IUCN noted that the specific regulations under the Special Law, including fisheries, tourism, environmental control, and introduced species/agriculture, are still awaited and views this as a very high priority matter.  Drafts of the regulations are in an advanced stage and should be approved before July 2001. Without the regulations in place, progress has been limited in controlling immigration, limiting fishery seasons and catches, and preventing illegal commercial fishing.  Both the Navy and the marine unit of the GNP have intercepted a number of vessels and discouraged others, but prosecutions have been few and illegal fishing continues.  Even worse, the Navy has allowed the release of several seized vessels which has implicated them in the illegal fishing business and reduced the Government’s credibility in enforcing the law.  This was further weakened during the fishermen's strike of November 2000 where intimidation of Park staff and violent action led to the Government backing down on quota limits.

V.133     Annual monitoring reports on the illegal commercial fisheries in the Marine Reserve show that many thousands of sharks have been taken out of Galapagos waters and that long-lining for other finfish has had severe effects on many other species.  Moreover, the loosely regulated controls on sea cucumber harvesting have led to a precipitous decline in the population, which may never recover to sustainable levels.  Despite areas of progress, the lack of sufficient enforcement has led to a continued over-fishing which is a major threat to the Galapagos marine environment.

V.134     On the positive side, the Bureau noted two key actions are expected that will set a much firmer basis for addressing the issues.  First, is the passage of the regulations that will clearly specify what limits are on fisheries, immigration, etc., and will allow more effective application of the Special Law.  Second, is the IDB loan for implementing the Galapagos Marine Reserve Plan that devotes US$4 million to strengthening the control and security system.  There is also a growing public feeling within Ecuador to address illegal fishing activities more firmly, which, with the added resources and resolve of the State Party, could lead to a reduction in further damage.  Commitment at the central political level, however, is a fundamental prerequisite.  Any revisions to the Special Law that would weaken it would be very detrimental to the participatory process that agreed to it.

V.135     The Bureau was informed of details about the international assistance received from private organizations, bilateral co-operation and in-kind donations from Governments to assist the Ecuadorian authorities. The donations amounted to a total of US$ 666,187; additional without the contributions from UNESCO (US$ 25,000) and the World Heritage Fund (US$ 50,000) were also provided.

V.136     The Delegate of Ecuador stated that consequences of the oil spill are no longer visible in the Galapagos Islands. He also thanked the Committee for the emergency assistance of US$ 50,000 provided after the oil spill.

V.137     The Bureau, while concerned with the impacts of the oil spill of the tanker Jessica, acknowledged with appreciation the efforts of the State Party and the International Community in relation to the clean-up and rescue activities following the oil spill caused by the tanker. The Bureau encouraged the State Party to expedite regulations to implement the Special Law for Galapagos and to enforce their implementation as soon as possible.

25 COM VIII.87
Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

VIII.87 The Committee, recognising the continued and increasing threats posed to the marine and terrestrial flora and fauna of the Islands, urged the State Party to make all efforts to finalise the specific regulations under the Special Law and enforce them as soon as possible. The Committee commended the ruling by the State Party's Constitutional Court to uphold the Galapagos Special Law. It also commended the Ecuadorian Government for supporting the "Sea Shepherd" patrols in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, as well as efforts to protect the marine ecosystem in the Reserve. The Committee also commended the Smart Voyager initiative, given the nature of tourism visitation to the Galapagos and the impacts of tourism on the fragile environment and in light of the proposed Marine Reserve. It believed that consideration should be given to promoting similar schemes in other World Heritage sites. The Committee furthermore noted that the sea lion incident demonstrates the need to enhance the capacity of the Park to reinforce patrolling and control of the Islands.

25 COM X.B
Galápagos Islands [Extension to include the Galápagos Marine Reserve] (Ecuador)

Property: Galápagos Islands [Extension to include the Galápagos Marine Reserve

Id. N°: 1 Bis

State Party: Ecuador

Criteria: N (i) (ii) (iii) (iv)

The Committee approved the extension of the Galápagos Islands by the addition of the Galápagos Marine Reserve, maintaining the existing natural criteria (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv). The Marine Reserve adds substantially to the justification of the existing World Heritage site as one of the premier nature reserves on the planet. The Committee requested the Government of Ecuador to finalize as soon as possible the adoption of the regulations deriving from the Special Law for Galápagos. The Committee stressed the importance of long-term protection and management of the site and noted that the extension will further enhance the protection of the site. The Committee commended the State Party on progress made and requested it to invite a mission to review the implementation of the regulations in late 2002.

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following for transmission to the Committee:

“The Committee, recognising the continued and increasing threats posed to the marine and terrestrial flora and fauna of the Islands, urges the State Party to make all efforts to finalise the specific regulations under the Special Law and enforce them as soon as possible. The Committee commends the ruling by the State Party’s Constitutional Court to uphold the Galapagos Special Law. It also commends the Ecuadorian Government for supporting the “Sea Shepherd” patrols in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, as well as efforts to protect the marine ecosystem in the Reserve. The Committee also commends the Smart Voyager initiative, given the nature of tourism visitation to the Galapagos and the impacts of tourism on the fragile environment and in light of the proposed Marine Reserve.  It believes that consideration should be given to promoting similar schemes in other World Heritage sites. The Committee furthermore notes that the sea lion incident demonstrates the need to enhance the capacity of the Park to reinforce patrolling and control of the Islands.”

Report year: 2001
Ecuador
Date of Inscription: 1978
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Danger List (dates): 2007-2010
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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