Fisheries and sustainability, a sour debate that reaches the Galapagos Islands

Fisheries and sustainability, a sour debate that reaches the Galapagos Islands

24 January 2021
CE Noticias Financieras

How to maintain an artisanal activity such as fishing in one of the most protected and recognized marine ecosystems in the world, and to do so sustainably, has focused industry discussions on what is the Third Annual Fisheries Summit, which kicked off this Saturday in the Galapagos.

Local fishermen, representatives of the fishing industry such as tuna fishermen, biologists, scientists and authorities have met this weekend in this town on Santa Cruz Island in the Ecuadorian archipelago in order to analyze the challenges faced by a sector that has been subjected to conservationist restrictions for more than three decades.


The president minister of the Galapagos Governing Council, Norman Wray, recalled that the Galapagos Marine Reserve has been a protected area since 1998; no industrial fishing activity is allowed, although low-impact artisanal fishing activity has been allowed.

“This has allowed Galapagos to remain a very important conservation site and one of Unesco’s best-kept [sites],” stressed the head of the island government, home to 15,000 inhabitants, according to the latest census.

Aware of the constraints facing the sector and the devastating effects of the pandemic on the local economy, Wray proposes solutions such as seeking “an added value to the fishing effort that currently existis”.

In this way, it proposes the production of tuna fished by hand in the archipelago within the framework of an exportable [brand] name that can attract, for example, the European consumer aware of the environmental impact of mass catches.

“A product such as tuna, which is a migratory species and which finds a much healthier ecosystem in the Galapagos in its [life] cycle, fish [caught] with low-impact rigging should have a much higher valuation” than fish caught industrially, he explained.


The Galapagos Marine Reserve is a protected area that is located a thousand kilometers from the mainland of Ecuador and covers about 133,000 square kilometers, equivalent to half of the land area of the country. It was recognized in 2001 as a Natural World Heritage Site by Unesco, and together with the island territory less than two years ago, a Biosphere Reserve.

It is one of the largest in the world and is located in a strategic maritime region where several currents converge, generating a mixture of cold and warm waters that facilitate the arrival, reproduction and establishment of different Pacific species and make it a sanctuary for marine fauna.

“It plays a seeding role throughout the eastern Pacific,” hence fishing activity is so great on the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone, a maritime strip stretching from the outer boundary of the territorial sea to a distance of 200 nautical miles [from the islands].


Gabriela Cruz, the president of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of Ecuador (Fenacopec) laments that, for thirteen years, local fishermen have not been able to fish beyond the 40 miles of the islands with “the right fishing gear” and [laments] that “the conservation sector” is proposing to extend that limit.

The representative of the artisanal group called for this meeting to be a point of dialogue between artisanal and industrial fishermen, the scientific sector and authorities in order to reach a consensus that would allow the continuation of the activity

“We all live on sustainable fishing to protect whales, sharks, turtles, birds. They are important but [animals] cannot be above human beings and work,” she said of an unresolved tension between local fisheries and entities responsible for safeguarding the unique marine ecosystem. There are 1,100 fishermen belong to five organizations among the islands of Isabela, Cristóbal and Santa Cruz of the archipelago.

Their main complaints are that fishing is limited by the 40 miles of the established reserve limit, that the authorities do not issue licenses or delay licensing, that there are a set number of rustic boats and that two vessels are not allowed to merge together to obtain a larger vessel [license].

They censor that, on the contrary, boats and yachts used in the tourism sector, some of them large, are licensed to sail on the islands, apparently without any limitations, and blame seabed pollution and a serious environmental impact on them.

Cruz also denounces the presence of large boats outside the protected boundary which [are able to] send small boats that enter the exclusive area undetected. “There is a pursuit against artisanal fishing,” Fenacopec’s president retorted, expressing the feeling of artisanal fishermen.

“Our artisanal fishermen do not want an extension of the marine reserve, we call on the Government to discuss this and to make everyone aware,” he concluded. EFE

Read the original coverage via Ecuavisa at

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

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