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Effective biosecurity protects the environment, human health, and the economy, as well as providing a safe, enjoyable life for the Galapagos community and visitors. Click on the links below to explore biosecurity topics in Galapagos.
Protecting Galapagos through Biosecurity
Biosecurity involves the application of policies and systems to protect a specific area or population from biological harm. Traditionally, biosecurity — often under the more restrictive term “quarantine” — has primarily focused on agriculture and related industries. Today, the concept is understood to include other major sectors of the economy and environment, and to engage the broad community. Biosecurity now encompasses prevention and mitigation from diseases, pests, and bioterrorism, and has major economic and social implications for the following sectors:
- Environment and biodiversity (both terrestrial and marine ecosystems)
- Agriculture (animals and plants)
- Forestry (native forests and plantations)
- Fisheries (marine, freshwater, and aquaculture)
- Tourism (tourists and the environment)
- Water supplies
- Amenity and recreation
In Galapagos, biosecurity measures have been introduced in an attempt to ensure that the ecosystems and ecologies sustaining the native flora and fauna as well as human communities are maintained. As such, biosecurity is the business and responsibility of the entire Galapagos community. The primary concern is the introduction and establishment of aggressive invasive species, including diseases, pests, and dominant competitors and predators.
Biosecurity can be divided into two major areas: prevention and mitigation. Key components of biosecurity in Galapagos include: 1) inspection and quarantine system (prevention); 2) control and eradication of both newly arrived and established invasive species (mitigation); and 3) building community awareness, support, and participation for these programs (prevention and mitigation).
Inspection and Quarantine
The Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), the Ministry of Environment, the Ecuadorian Navy, and others work together to prevent new species and organisms from being introduced into the Galapagos Islands. Prevention protocols include inspection of boats for foreign food, animals, and guns, as well as fumigation and sanitation requirements for boats. As of January 2014, all yacht arrivals may be subject to an Environmental Risk Assessment, which allows the GNPD to conduct an interview with the captain upon arrival and includes the possibility of inspecting the hull of each boat with a diver from the GNPD. The GNPD has the authority to demand that if a yacht fails to meet their requirements and poses a reasonable level of risk, they must leave the Galapagos Marine Reserve
An early warning system was also implemented on the inhabited islands, with technicians trained to monitor the ports of entry, agriculture zones, and airplanes for the arrival of high-risk pests. To prevent the establishment of new, dangerous invasive species, such as mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, a multi-institutional rapid response system and team were established and contingency plans developed.
Involving the Community in Protecting Galapagos
Community involvement is critical in invasive species management. Three committees were established to help combat the threat of introduced species: the Agricultural Health and SICGAL Committee (in Santa Cruz) and two Inter-institutional Introduced Species Committees (in San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz). Communication campaigns are used to reach wider audiences, including the use of pamphlets, posters, and numerous television and radio spots. Local teachers receive training to teach concepts related to introduced species, and more than 12,000 school children have participated in events to learn about invasive species impacts, with many actively participating in invasive species projects such as invertebrate monitoring.
When the inspection and quarantine system fails to prevent the arrival of an invasive species, eradication before it can become established is the next best method in the biosecurity arsenal. This requires a constant flow of information between the Galapagos community and the appropriate research and management institutions. An awareness campaign has improved this connection, with many more members of the community providing information and sometimes specimens of insects and other pests to the authorities. This close working relationship between the community and the authorities is the key to the success of early response and eradication programs.
Managing Introduced Species
The primary methods to mitigate the damage already done by invasive species that are successfully established are control and eradication, the most costly of the prevention/mitigation techniques in the biosecurity system. Controls and eradications have been carried out primarily by the Galapagos National Park Directorate in collaboration with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF). Project Isabela, completed in 2006, was one of the most ambitious and ultimately successful eradication projects ever attempted anywhere in the world. It focused on the eradication of goats and donkeys on northern Isabela, and goat, pigs, and donkeys on Santiago.
Techniques for eradicating invasive species such as fire ants, cats, and plants have also been developed and implemented. Many Galapagos ecosystems are beginning to recover. Teams of Galapagos residents who were trained during these projects are now applying these new eradication techniques throughout Galapagos. The methods developed in Galapagos are also now being applied in other parts of the world.
A key component of successful response is knowledge of the threat and the ability to prioritize research and management efforts. Considerable groundwork has been completed to identify major invasive species threats in Galapagos and to learn more about how these species interact with Galapagos species. Inventories of the urban and agricultural zones identified over 500 new introduced plants and invertebrates.
As a result of these surveys, the reference collections have been expanded and databases on introduced vertebrates, plants, and invertebrates, including their biology, distribution, and possible control, are now available to decision-makers. Tools have also been developed to identify which species pose the greatest risk to Galapagos and where in the archipelago immediate management actions are required.
Video: CDF Veterinarian Discusses Introduced Species
Watch former CDF veterinarian Sharon Deem discuss the impact of introduced species in Galapagos:
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