The year 2007 was a watershed in many ways, in terms of international, national and local discussions related to the many challenges associated with Galapagos conservation.
In April of 2007, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, declared the Galapagos Islands “at risk” and their protection a national priority through Emergency Decree 207. President Correa made this announcement during a visit of a United Nations delegation (UNESCO) which was to determine whether the archipelago should be put on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. The decree called for a variety of immediate conservation measures including the restriction of some tourism permits, the return of individuals with “irregular” residency to the mainland, finding a comprehensive plan to control the spread of invasive species, implementing educational reform, and ensuring the development of sustainable businesses.
Despite Correa’s call to action, on June 26, 2007 the World Heritage Committee recommended that Galapagos be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in hopes of rallying support for their conservation. The 2007 Mission Report to the World Heritage Committee identified 15 issues needing urgent attention. These were later grouped into the following areas:
- Prevention and control of Invasive Species
- Elimination of illegal fisheries and measures to make legal fisheries more sustainable
- Control of both land-based and ship-based tourism
- Control, as outlined in the Special Law for Galapagos, of immigration and residency
- Measures to develop local capacity through improved education
- Greater transparency, accountability and efficiency in governance and regional planning
In July 2010, the World Heritage Committee decided to remove Galapagos from the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing significant progress made by Ecuador in addressing the problems identified in its 2007 report. The 2010 UNESCO Mission Report describes progress and remaining issues in detail.