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

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-2019)
Total amount approved: USD 627,825
For details, see page https://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: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson); February 2003: UNESCO mission; June 2003: UNESCO mission; April 2005: UNESCO informal visit; February-March 2006: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2007: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission (including World Heritage Committee Chairperson); April 2009: UNESCO informal visit; April-May 2010: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; August 2017: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 28 November 2022, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1/documents/, reporting the following:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The significant ongoing efforts by the State Party to address the longstanding issues related to tourism, IAS and IUU fishing, including through the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission, are welcomed. Appreciation is due in particular for the recent progress on the operationalisation of the GBA, the development and implementation of the vessel monitoring system, and the regional collaboration to address IUU fishing.

The development of indicators related to attributes of the OUV, and the corresponding threat reduction assessment, represents a significant step towards effective long-term monitoring and adaptive management of the property. It is encouraging that management measures appear to be effectively reducing threats to the property’s OUV. However, it is noted that longstanding and emerging threats including IAS, tourism and associated infrastructure, illegal harvesting of natural resources, climate change and land conversion remain stable and require ongoing management efforts. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to integrate the aforementioned indicators, and corresponding measures to address threats, into the current Management Plan for the property, and to submit the updated Management Plan to the World Heritage Centre once it is available.

The State Party should be encouraged to continue its commendable efforts to limit and control the further spread of IAS, through effective implementation of the 10-year Galápagos Invasive Species Management Plan, sufficient enforcement and funding.

The information that tourism is strictly regulated in the property and commensurate with a zero-growth model for tourism is noted. However, statistics publicly available at the website of the Ministry of Tourism show a steep and continuous increase of visitor numbers (https://servicios.turismo.gob.ec/) from less than 12,000 at the time of inscription in 1978 to more than 270,000 in 2019 before the start of the pandemic. Notwithstanding the temporary decrease in numbers as a result of the COVID pandemic, tourist visitation numbers from January to March 2023 are reported to be 78,507, which is over than 9,500 more than in the first quarter of 2019, prior to the pandemic. The reported opening of a new flight connection to Galapagos from the city of Manta in March 2023 will only further exacerbate this trend.

Since 1998, when a cap was established on the total capacity of the cruise ship fleet, most of this growth is land-based visitation, which carries even larger risks of introduction and dispersal of alien species compared with ship-based tourism. It is of concern that the State Party did not provide any information on whether work has started on the development of a tourism strategy and clear action plan, which was requested by the Committee in its Decision 44 COM 7B.113 to achieve the zero-growth model, including maintaining the moratorium on construction of new tourism projects and the limits on the number of flights. While it is noted that the number of flights and, consequently the number of arrivals, in Galápagos is governed by the National Civil Aviation Council, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that it is the responsibility of the State Party to manage tourism flow in a way that is compatible with the OUV of the property, including by pursuing a zero-growth tourism model, as previously requested by the Committee.

It is positive that most fishing vessels around the property are under regulatory oversight for compliance, reporting, and fishery observer coverage. Recalling the negative impact of IUU fishing on the OUV of the property, the State Party is requested to ensure continuous compliance of these fishing vessels with rules and regulations in place, including continued strengthening of their vessel monitoring system, and to ensure the continued monitoring of any illegal or unregulated fishing vessels that may encroach on or operate at the peripheries of the property.

The designation of the Hermandad Marine Reserve between the Galápagos Islands and Cocos Island represents a positive development to enhance the protection of the OUV through improved connectivity for migratory species across the region. The State Party should be encouraged to enforce the regulations established within the MPA alongside efforts to further strengthen its collaboration with neighboring countries.

In November 2021, the Presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama signed a declaration to the sustainable management of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) and started a regional process that could result in the establishment of the world's largest transboundary marine biosphere reserve encompassing four World Heritage sites: Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica), Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia) and the Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection (Panama). This corridor covers more than 500,000 ha and is an important migratory route for a number of species which represent attributes of the property’s OUV including whales, sharks, and manta rays. It is recommended that the Committee welcome this development and encourage the States Parties to further pursue this initiative.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.67

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 44 COM 7B.113 adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/online, 2021),
  3. Appreciates the significant progress made by the State Party in addressing the longstanding issues facing the property and in implementing the recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission, in particular the recent progress towards the operationalization of the Galápagos Biosecurity Agency (GBA);
  4. Encourages the State Party to continue the current biosecurity measures to control the entry and spread of invasive alien species throughout the property, including through the effective implementation of the 10-year Galápagos Invasive Species Management Plan;
  5. Notes the development of indicators and identification of threats related to attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and requests the State Party to integrate these, in close collaboration with the relevant local institutions, into an updated version of the 2014 Management Plan for the property;
  6. Reiterates its continued concern on the steady growth of tourism and commercial flights to the property and urges again the State Party to develop and implement a clear tourism strategy with a clear action plan with urgent measures to achieve the zero-growth model, including maintaining the moratorium on construction of new tourism projects and the limits on the number of flights, and to submit this strategy and action plan to the World Heritage Centre for review;
  7. Takes note that the majority of fishing vessels around the property are Ecuadorian flagged and registered with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and operate under strict regulatory control, and further urges the State Party to ensure compliance with regulations and to ensure the continued monitoring of any illegal or unregulated fishing vessels that may encroach on or operate at the peripheries of the property;
  8. Commends the implementation of the new zoning system and the designation of the Hermandad Marine Reserve between the Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR) and Cocos Island in Costa Rica and encourages the State Party to continue to strengthen regional collaboration with neighboring countries for a collective approach to reducing illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing practices in the region;
  9. Also commends the States Parties of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama for adopting a declaration on the sustainable management of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) and also encourages them to work towards the establishment of a transboundary marine biosphere encompassing the World Heritage sites of Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica), Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia) and the Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection (Panama);
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.