Ecuador created a new marine reserve around its paradisiacal Galapagos Islands, whose rich biodiversity inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, to expand the protected area by 60,000 square kilometers and protect endangered migratory species.
Extending the reserve is the first step in a plan agreed by Ecuador with its neighbors Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Glasgow last year, to create a common submarine corridor, through the which species threatened by climate change and industrial fishing can migrate.
The existing Galapagos reserve, one of the largest in the world, currently covers 138,000 square kilometers, and the new conservation area will expand protection to some 198,000 square kilometers.
“Today we are declaring a Marine Reserve in an area of 60,000 square kilometers, or what is equivalent to an area three times the size of Belize,” announced the president. William Lasso, after signing the decree creating the new reserve aboard the Sierra Negra ship anchored in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island.
“Contrary to what many would think, the preservation of marine life is friendly to the planet, but it is also profitable,” he added.
Lasso told the United Nations summit that he hoped the plan to create a new reserve would be financed through a conservation debt swap. However, the president did not reveal any details of the mechanisms he will use to obtain resources to finance the new area.
Environmentalists say the new reserve would help protect at least five critically endangered species, including species of sharks and turtles, that migrate between the Galapagos and Cocos Island in Costa Rica.
Although it will reduce the space currently authorized for the activity of the important Ecuadorian industrial fishing fleet, it will not prevent the presence of a fleet of some 300 mainly Chinese industrial vessels, which settle each year in international waters on the edge of the islands to catch giant squid.
The impact of this fleet on the Galapagos ecosystem has not yet been determined by the South American nation.
The islands were declared a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 due to their large number of terrestrial and marine flora and fauna. (Reuters)