WWF Ecuador's Approach to the Creation or Expansion of Marine Protected Areas in Galapagos

Posted on 10 September 2021

WWF Ecuador strongly supports the expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), the creation of a new marine protected area on the high seas, or the design of a special management scheme for the Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These actions can significantly help support the conservation of several threatened marine species, while also enhancing the sustainability of fishing stocks on which vast sectors of the Ecuadorian population depend.

WWF Ecuador considers that any decision for marine conservation must be an inclusive one. It should be made in accordance with national and international regulations and developed through a careful and participatory planning. It must be scientifically based, have an efficient and inclusive management approach, and must include the necessary financing for effective management and control. In this sense, we support the possibility of a debt swap as one of the financial mechanisms to guarantee the effective management of this and other marine protected areas, while also generating the needed resources to support research and implementation of more sustainable fishing practices.

The successful design and planning of a marine protected area (MPA) requires the active participation of all affected sectors and is essential to the MPA meeting its conservation and fisheries sustainability objectives, especially for artisanal and traditional fishers. In other words, a key factor for success is establishing a governance scheme that incorporates the voices of all stakeholders. Adequate planning and zoning of the expanded area, the new MPA, or the Galapagos EEZ will guarantee inclusive conservation, tourism development and economic benefits for all stakeholders.

There is strong scientific evidence that within properly designed MPAs, the number, size and biomass of fish is greater than in adjacent areas outside the MPA. A well-designed and managed MPA can be a powerful tool for the administration and management of fisheries, which is why it should be conceived as one of the possible tools to achieve the sustainable use of the oceans. In addition, MPAs, thanks to their "spillover" effect, not only contribute to the recovery of species of fishing interest, but also to increased overall production. Proper MPA management can increase biodiversity, with the consequent migration of commercially important species from protected areas to adjacent areas increasing the sustainability of fishing resources.

Ecuador has been discussing the possible expansion of the GMR or the creation of a new protected area in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that surrounds Galapagos for some time. There are opposing views on the relevance of this measure, which has led to ongoing informal dialogues between the conservation sector and other stakeholders, especially the fishing sector. While the conversations have been robust, more time is needed to reach a consensus.

We welcome the possibility that the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, through its Minister Gustavo Manrique, leads and institutionalizes a process in which the environmental, fishing, tourism and other sectors can come to the table and find consensus around a proposal that represents a beneficial solution for our country.

WWF, in complete compliance with Ecuadorian laws and international treaties ratified by Ecuador, categorically rejects every form of illicit use of biodiversity, such as the fishing of protected species or endangerment of Protected Areas. Therefore, WWF recognizes and praises the prohibition of industrial fishing within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. WWF also supports the complete protection of sharks within this protected area, as well as the prohibition of targeted shark fishing in all Ecuadorian waters.

We offer the Ecuadorian State all of WWF’s capacity to obtain a successful result and ensure that the protected areas have adequate governance that allows it to meet our shared objectives of conservation and sustainable development.

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