Project: Managing Fisheries in the Galapagos Marine Reserve
Partners: Galapagos National Park, Offield Family Foundation, Galapagos
Status: Seeking funding for implementation
The Galapagos Marine Reserve is a multi-use marine reserve, where industrial fishing is banned, but the local fishing sector, legally defined as “artisanal”, has in recent years seriously depleted its coastal waters of several key species, including the sea cucumber Isostichopus fuscus and the spiny lobster Panulirus penicillatus. The sea cucumber fishery in Galapagos has received widespread media attention due to the conflicts surrounding it, and was responsible for a large influx of opportunistic fishers from continental Ecuador in the early 1990s. The decline of these coastal resources, coupled with the ensuing socio-political conflicts, contributed to the Galapagos Islands being placed on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.
Fisheries of Galapagos finfish species are currently not regulated, and lobster and sea cucumber populations are heavily over-fished. Many of these species including several top predators and endemic species occupy a keystone role in the marine food web. Their over-exploitation could have serious consequences for marine communities and ecosystem stability throughout Galapagos. Therefore, effective fisheries management based on sound data on fisheries ecology and ongoing technical assistance to the authorities is imperative to manage key resources and protect the marine ecosystems of the archipelago.
The Fisheries Research Project builds on many years of monitoring of sea cucumber and lobster fisheries in Galapagos, carried out both by the Charles Darwin Foundation and by the Galapagos National Park Service. The project will assess growth, reproduction, and recruitment patterns of the target species such as Wahoo, Grouper, and Tuna, through collection and examination of biological samples. Scientists will study site fidelity and migration of target species and the use of protected areas through the investigation of movement patterns within and outside the GMR. As importantly, the results of these studies will provide scientific information and technical assistance to the authorities to improve fisheries management of lobster and sea cucumber fisheries and work towards population recovery in close collaboration with all stakeholders.
Monitoring and research need to be carried out on all main commercially targeted finfish species to secure a sustainable fisheries management strategy and avoid overexploitation before it is too late, as seen in the coastal invertebrate fisheries of sea cucumbers and lobsters. Results will be presented to the participatory management board and directly to the Galapagos National Park so decisions about marine resource management can be taken based on sound scientific results.
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