March 21, 2016
The government of Ecuador has announced the creation of a new marine sanctuary around the islands of Darwin and Wolf in Galapagos that will offer protection to the world’s greatest concentration of sharks. The new sanctuary includes 15,000 square miles within the existing Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), wherein industrial fishing has been banned since 1998 but smaller fishing operations have been allowed. With the creation of this new sanctuary, several areas within the GMR will now be designated as “no-take” zones, meaning fishing of any kind is off-limits.
The government says that such additional protection is essential, as the habitat has come under increased pressure due to climate change and illegal shark fin poachers. From an economic perspective, a 2015 report found that sharks also have an immense value to tourism that greatly outweighs their value to the fishing industry. Tourists travel from all over the world to visit the Islands and dive to see the sharks, of which more than 34 different species can be found in these waters.
This new designation is the result of an open, transparent dialogue initiated in 2014 that included input from 631 participants across various sectors in Galapagos, including from the local fishing industry. The consensus leading to the designation of the new reserve means that 32% of the waters around Galapagos will now be protected from fishing activities.