#SOSGalapagos: The Enchanted Islands at environmental risk
By NUNO ACOSTA August 21, 2020
We had the opportunity to interview a representative from SOS Galapagos to tell us about their environmental initiative to protect the Galapagos Islands.
1. How was #SOSGalapagos born?
SOS Galapagos was born from a citizen initiative that began in Santa Cruz in August 2017 when the fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu Leng was found within the Marine Reserve, where 75% of the fishing corresponded to sharks of different species, including: shark Galapagos, Silky, hammerhead shark and a juvenile whale shark.
In addition, a large number of sacs with shark fins were found, as well as neonatal (newborn) and unborn (excised from pregnant females) sharks. All these species are in different categories of threat according to the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
This is how SOS Galapagos was born, in order to publicly denounce what is happening in Galapagos [and share news] that does not reach the continent or abroad for fear that the international image [of the Galapagos] will be affected.
2. In your words, what is the reality of what is happening in Galapagos?
The reality is that there are many internal problems to fix, before putting blame only on international fishing vessels near the Galapagos Marine Reserve as those responsible. One of the main problem is the tuna industry in Ecuador, which generates 120,000 jobs and has become one of the main sources of income for the country according to the government production report (2019)
The tuna industry stated that it does not agree to the extension of the marine reserve. So, not only are there policies to review with international entities, but we must also state that within Ecuador more than 70% of shark fins are exported to the Asian market. In other words, there is a control problem that is not easy to eradicate.
3. Is it all China’s fault?
No, it is important to emphasize that China is not the only fleet that is near the marine reserve. There are vessels from Portugal, Chile, Indonesia, Peru, Ecuador, from what we know. [We know] that they fish the same or worse than Chinese vessels, because the main problem is not which country is fishing, but the control [and enforcement] of what is caught in international waters.
4. What actions are being taken to avoid this problem?
At the moment, we know that a commission appointed by President Lenin Moreno was created to combat this problem as of July 27. The commission includes more marine specialists, a public – private team, which are responsible for designing the Galapagos protection strategy and working on a regional position to defend and protect the Exclusive Economic Zone around the Marine Reserve. The members are:
- Ex-mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla
- Former Minister of Environment, Yolanda Kakabadse
- Chancellor Luis Gallegos Chiriboga
However, we have not heard any proposals yet.
5. Tell us about the sit-in that just happened?
The sit-in was organized by the ‘Pacifico Libre’ collective together with various organizations around Ecuador. The purpose is to expose the problem to society and also provide a solution. There is a letter, which was prepared by the collective, which has 22 legal and scientific points that provide a solution to this problem that can be immediately executed. This sit-in took place on August 14 in the islands: Santa Cruz, Cristobal and Isabela in Galapagos, as well as Guayaquil and Quito.
6. What is the future of SOS Galapagos?
Expand and create a news platform focused on all the problems that happen on the islands. At the moment, we are primarily a web platform, including a website where the news that can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is also published.
7. How can we help you?
The first thing is to download the individual (physical) letter that ‘Pacifico Libre’ has created, which must be sent individually to the local authorities. Here the link: http://www.pacificolibre.com/letter-to-the-national-government-foreign-fleet-case/
Answering your question, international entities such as the UN Environment can help us to litigate this issue in a special court. However, we mainly need internal policies that favor the protection of species in international waters and control of unregulated fishing.
The completion of scientific studies that support the importance of protecting this area is required in order for international policies to be implemented to protect migratory species.
Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2020