Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Applauds Commitment to Extend Galápagos Islands’ Marine Protections

Ecuador’s iconic ecosystem faces mounting threats from industrial fishing and climate change

WASHINGTONThe Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project applauds today’s commitment by Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso to expand marine protections for the waters surrounding the Galápagos Islands.

President Lasso announced expanding the protected waters around the archipelago by 60,000 square kilometers (23,166 square miles) at a press conference at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The new reserve includes a 30,000-square-kilometer (11,583-square-mile) fully protected no-take area that will safeguard a migratory corridor used by sharks, whales, sea turtles, manta rays, and many other species between the Galápagos and the Cocos Island in neighboring Costa Rica, and a 30,000-square-kilometer (11,583-square-mile) area where longline fishing would be prohibited. Lasso also said Ecuador will be working jointly with Costa Rica, Colombia, and Panama to protect the region’s ocean.

Under Ecuadorian law, the president can create marine protected areas by decree.

Ecuador’s new protections will build on the existing Galápagos Marine Reserve, which was established in 1998 and prohibits extractive activities in certain areas—while allowing artisanal fishing in others—across 133,000 square kilometers (51,352 square miles). The archipelago, which is part of Ecuador, hosts some of the world’s highest levels of endemism—species found nowhere else. Although the existing reserve has helped to safeguard habitats for certain species, including hammerhead sharks and green sea turtles, the pressures from climate change and overfishing threaten this unique and biodiverse ecosystem—and the local economy dependent on an abundance of wildlife.

There is growing agreement among global leaders, Indigenous groups, and scientists on the need to fully and highly protect and conserve at least 30% of Earth’s coastal and marine areas by 2030 in order to secure and maintain a healthy ocean, support ocean resilience in the face of climate change, and improve food security. Ecuador has expressed its commitment to this goal, and new, robust marine protections for the Galápagos could be a step toward achieving it.

There has been strong local support in the Galápagos Islands for establishing such robust large-scale marine protections. Government officials, community members, and other local partners have worked with the Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project in supporting scientists, economists, and nongovernmental organizations in assessing options for expanding marine protections near the Galápagos that could benefit the economy, fishermen, and nature.

Eliecer Cruz, former governor of the Galápagos, who leads Más Galápagos, a citizens’ initiative supporting expanded protections, said: “Looking ahead, this is a strong step in the right direction for marine protections for the Galápagos in order to maintain the health of our spectacular array of marine life—and our economy. Our marine reserve has been remarkably productive, but we must build further on that success.”

Dona Bertarelli, co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation and special adviser for the blue economy to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said: “There may not be anywhere on our planet more representative of the need to preserve and protect marine life than the Galápagos. It’s an unparalleled global treasure with biological significance that extends far beyond Ecuador. We must now connect the special ecosystems of the Eastern Tropical Pacific in order to protect them.”

Matt Rand, who leads large-scale marine habitat conservation efforts for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said: “This could be an important first step toward ensuring that this incredible and irreplaceable marine ecosystem remains healthy far into the future. Galápagonian fishermen and the Galápagos tourism-based economy both depend on a healthy, robust, and biodiverse marine ecosystem.”

About the Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation joined forces in 2017 to create the project, with the shared goal of establishing the first generation of ecologically significant and effective marine protected areas around the world. This effort builds on a decade of work by both organizations to protect the ocean. Between them, they have helped to obtain designations to safeguard over 8 million square kilometers (3 million square miles) of ocean by working with philanthropic partners, Indigenous groups, community leaders, government officials, and scientists. Since 2010, the Bertarelli Foundation has sought to protect the ocean for future generations through marine conservation and collaborative marine science research.

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Frigates, pelicans, herons, and sea lions surround the fish market in the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island in Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.
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