Galapagos: a study proposes the creation of a new protected area

445 square kilometers would have the area where extractive activities would be prohibited. In addition, a spatial division is proposed, in certain places, for fishing operations.

Galapagos: a study proposes the creation of a new protected area

Ricardo Zambrano
January 6, 2021 – 06h00

The creation of a new protected area and new fishing guidelines are the recommendations that emerge from a scientific analysis carried out to increase the protection of open waters outside the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) in order to conserve threatened pelagic marine species and commercial, as well as guaranteeing food security and benefits for future generations.

This research was led by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and several national and international researchers, as well as some institutions that after almost eleven months of work gave their conclusions.

In addition, the study was supported by the More Galapagos organization. The creation of the new protected area and the guidelines replace the proposal to expand the RMG that the collective had made.

The research analyzed the threats of more than 20 open water marine species and data on variables such as primary and oceanographic productivity (El Niño and La Niña phenomena).

This made it possible to identify sensitive areas in order to guarantee the protection of migratory species, such as the hammerhead shark and the Galapagos albatross, whose populations are in critical condition, which shows “that the protection goal is not being achieved with the current reserve ”.

Alex Hearn, a scientist who participated in the research, says that a list of 54 conservation targets, critical open water habitats, particularly underwater mountain ranges, and areas of high marine productivity was drawn up.

“It is an ecosystem approach. We are looking at ecological processes, habitats and species. We have prepared layers that show, in some cases, the distribution of objects, foraging areas and migratory routes of the species ”, he says.

The situation of the industrial tuna and longliner fishing activity in the almost 20 million square kilometers where they carry out their operations was also analyzed.

To this information was added an analysis carried out by a team of oceanographers from the University of Southampton on the movements of Fish Aggregating Devices (DAP), also known as FADs, at different distances from the current marine reserve and under various oceanographic conditions. , says Hearn.

“We have seen how FADs behave and whether they enter the GMR or not. We have also taken up the concerns of the Galapagos fishing sector, particularly about illegal fishing activities near the current GMR border that are being carried out by longliners ”, he adds.

The specialist emphasizes that it is not proposing that the entire economic marine zone be a reserve. It indicates that the proposal contemplates specific areas for the fishing fleets to take advantage of the “spillover effect” (large fish that leave the GMR).

There are also no important areas for fishing activity. Meanwhile, in the new protected area, of 445 square kilometers, extractive activities would be prohibited.

In addition, the creation of the “El Niño buffer” zone is proposed where fishing will be prohibited in the years where this weather phenomenon occurs. However, when the La Niña effect develops, it will be part of the responsible fishing zone.

“This is proposed because when there is the effect of El Niño, the species have to go out to forage more outside due to the lack of food. This zone seeks to give flexibility to the species, ”says Hearn.

This proposal will begin to be discussed in a “public and tangible” way with all the actors from this month. Especially to discuss patrol costs and the best mechanism to finance everything raised. “Now the arguments should focus on this proposal,” says the expert. (I)

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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