Ecuador pressured to save Galapagos wildlife

A A A

Ecuador is facing pressure to act against thefishermen who are threatening the ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Ecuador is facing pressure to act against thefishermen who are threatening the ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

As revealed by The Independent, the Ecuadorean government is being lobbied by the fishing industry to legalise long-line fishing inside the marine reserve at the Galapagos, despite its potentially catastrophic impact on the rare marine life there.

David Blanton from the non-profit International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, said the government could give in to the fishing lobby with potentially lethal consequences.

Long-lining in pursuit of tuna and swordfish also indiscriminately kills other marine life such as turtles, seals and penguins in by-catch.

The remote volcanic islands attract nearly 100,000 tourists a year, but tour operators warn that the £90m they bring in to the Ecuador economy is at risk from the fishing industry, which is worth only £6m.

Mr Blanton said: "We're losing the fight to preserve the Galapagos. Yes, travellers are arriving in record numbers. But look a little deeper and the news is not so good."

Unesco, the United Nations body that declared the archipelago a World Heritage Site in 1978, is considering granting the islands endangered status. A Unesco delegation is due to visit this month to investigate the "urgent situation" and will engage in talks with the government.

The Canada-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), which have donated a former US navy cruiser to the Galapagos rangers to combat illegal fishing, said that corruption was behind the governmental backsliding on conservation. Paul Watson, the head of SSCS, said: "The new government has seen a hike in the influence of the fishing lobby. Corruption was already out of control and I didn't think things could get worse.

"But you can buy anything you want for a bribe. The fishermen have destroyed the stocks on the coast and now they want the Galapagos."

Experts warn that lifting the ban on long-lining would devastate the populations of silky and Galapagos sharks, as well as black-and-white-tipped reef sharks and the schooling hammerhead sharks.

Until recently, the islands remained unaffected by Ecuador's political instability but the new government of Lucio Gutierrez that came to power two years ago has been propped up by support from unions, including fishermen.

Xavier Bustamante, the head of Ecuador's leading conservation movement, the Funacion Natura, said: "In the past Galapagos was above the political games but not any more. Since this government took power there have been 11 park directors. That's an average of two a month."

The effect of this has been paralysing, according to analysts. Mr Bustamante said: "They don't understand that the Galapagos is unique. They are treating it in the same corrupt way they would any other province of the country."

Mr Watson said the park rangers, who went on strike last year over government interference, were doing their best in a bad situation. "A lot of them have great integrity. But every time the director tries to do his job he gets fired."

Tensions in the park spilled over into violence last year when fishermen, who were angry at attempts to enforce a ban on sea cucumber harvesting, threatened rangers with petrol bombs.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'