Call on President Lenín Moreno to Expand the Galápagos Marine Reserve

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There has never been a better opportunity to expand the Galápagos Marine Reserve than now. Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno’s term in office will conclude in May 2021. Before his term ends, he has one final opportunity to leave a remarkable legacy for Ecuadorians—and for the world—by expanding the Galápagos Marine Reserve. This will safeguard vulnerable marine species that depend on the Reserve, ensure food security for local communities, and help Ecuador achieve its recent commitment to protect at least 30% of its marine areas by 2030

This is why SeaLegacy, Only One, The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Program, MasGalapagos, Migramar, Mission Blue, Pacífico Libre, Tropical Herping, The Leatherback Project, Mare Nostrum, and a coalition of various other Ecuadorian and international organizations, scientists, and members of local communities, are calling for urgent action, and we need your help.

Galápagos faces challenges such as climate change, plastic pollution, pressure from fishing fleets and illegal fishing; therefore, we will continue to strengthen the Marine Reserve and we’re analyzing its expansion to protect this heritage for the benefit of humanity, the local population, and biodiversity.
Lenín Moreno
President of Ecuador

Galápagos was one of the first natural places in the world to be designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, recognized for its outstanding biodiversity, ecosystems, geology, and immense value to humanity.

Nearly 3,000 marine species have been monitored within the Galápagos Marine Reserve, including sharks, sea lions, fur seals, rays, cormorants, whales, dolphins, albatrosses, marine iguanas, sea turtles, tropical fish, and even the most northern-living penguins.

More than 20% of marine species found in the Galápagos region are found nowhere else on the planet.

But despite the Ecuadorian government’s pledge to protect Galápagos, marine life in the region is facing enormous pressure from domestic and foreign industrial fishing fleets, which, in addition to commercial species such as swordfish and tuna, often capture juvenile individuals and species such as sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and others, that are threatened with extinction.

Industrial fishing fleets are responsible for the death of thousands of endangered and highly migratory marine animals every year, including some that are critically endangered such as the scalloped hammerhead shark, which mates and feeds in Galápagos, and the whale shark, the largest fish in the ocean.

Combined, Ecuadorian and foreign industrial fishing operations are causing excessive and unprecedented mortality to marine life in the Galápagos region and gradually pushing this invaluable ecosystem toward collapse.

Marine species do not recognize marine borders so they are easy prey for industrial fishing fleets, which catch them as they enter and leave marine protected areas. Even more worrying, these fishing fleets often lure marine life out of protected areas with the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs), also known as “plantados” in Spanish. Plantados are floating fishing devices deployed in the ocean to attract fish, especially tuna, but that also end up attracting sharks and other marine life.

Expanding the Galápagos Marine Reserve would create an additional buffer between marine life and fishing fleets, providing these species with a better chance of survival.

The fishing industry argues that if the Galápagos Marine Reserve is expanded, its sector will go bankrupt because fishing will be banned and thousands of people will lose their jobs, resulting in poverty and crime. This is completely false. These same arguments were used by the industry in 1998, when the Galápagos Marine Reserve was first established. Since then, the fishing industry has grown tremendously but the Galápagos Marine Reserve has remained the same size. When it was established in 1998, the Galápagos Marine Reserve immediately became the second largest marine protected area in the world. Today, it has fallen to 33rd.

Industrial and illegal fishing kills thousands of scalloped hammerhead sharks every year · Andy Mann
The Galápagos islands and surrounding waters are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site · Lucas Bustamante
The Galápagos Marine Reserve is critical to the survival of endangered whale sharks · Shawn Heinrichs
The Galápagos region is a unique and irreplaceable natural wonder of our planet · Andy Mann
The Galápagos Marine Reserve offers refuge to thousands of threatened marine species · Cristina Mittermeier

The Galápagos Marine Reserve has remained the same size since it was established in 1998. Yet the fishing industry, which has benefited greatly from the reserve, has grown tremendously.

There is no harm in expanding marine protected areas (MPAs). The expansion of MPAs is proven to generate benefits for various sectors, including tourism, recreation, and scientific research—but especially for the fishing sector, which gains increased abundance of commercial species for the long term through a mechanism known as the “spillover effect”, whereby MPAs act to replenish fish stocks that then “spill over” to adjacent waters that support fishing communities.

The Galápagos Marine Reserve is a vital refuge for marine life, acting as a “seedbed” and guaranteeing food security and employment for Ecuadorian communities now and far into the future.

The Galápagos region is a unique and irreplaceable natural wonder of our planet. There is no other place that meets its natural characteristics.

I invite you to listen to what the people of the Islands say and the scientific information that supports the expansion [of the Galápagos Marine Reserve], and what this means to improve the living conditions of all people and for the planet. It is an act of responsibility and we must expand and the decision must be transparent.
Norman Wray
President of the Government Council of Galápagos
Join us in urging President Lenín Moreno to fulfill his commitment to protect Galápagos by expanding the Galápagos Marine Reserve, and help build momentum by sharing the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. For Galápagos. For Ecuador. For all of us.
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