Making connections: Galapagos Islands look to the Reef

Published: 25/03/2015

They‘re two spectacular underwater wildernesses and two of the most famous world heritage areas on the planet — and now one is providing direct assistance to the other.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is this week hosting two field officers from Ecuador’s Directorate of the Galapagos National Parks to share insights on how zoning rules are enforced.

The Galapagos Islands — renowned for their unique, endemic wildlife and for inspiring Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution — are under increasing pressures from human activities, including rapidly growing tourism and overfishing.

The fact-finding mission to Townsville follows a recent visit to Ecuador by GBRMPA reef recovery manager Darren Cameron to provide advice on the steps needed to build an effective network of marine park zones.

“The Galapagos Islands are in a similar position to where we were about 10 years ago, where we had zoning arrangements in place but they weren’t extensive enough to adequately protect biodiversity,” said Mr Cameron.

“The Ecuadorian Government recognises the national and international importance of the Galapagos Islands and is considering introducing a network of no-take areas across their terrestrial and marine ecosystems to build upon their existing zoning plan.

“Given it’s been more than a decade since we rezoned the Marine Park and extended no-take areas to around one-third of the area, there’s plenty of knowledge we can share from this experience.

“Our message to the scientists and managers from the Galapagos Islands is that zoning is an effective foundation to protecting biodiversity, but that you need to define and map all of your different environments, establish objectives for zones, and develop clear rules on what activities are appropriate for each zone.

“Once you’ve done that, it’s a matter of making sure you achieve a balance between adequately protecting the area and supporting the sustainable use of the industries and communities that value and use these areas.”

This week’s trip by Ecuadorian representatives will provide a close look at the many practical measures used to enforce and encourage compliance with the zoning rules.

“This visit is another demonstration of the high regard that other countries have for our Marine Park management, and particularly our compliance system that monitors an area the size of Japan,” Mr Cameron said.

“We’re able to show that good management of marine reserves requires a compliance tool kit, including measures such as education and communication to encourage people to stick to the rules, as well as legislation, regulations and a permit system to help with enforcement.”

Elements of the compliance program to be showcased include surveillance measures, and the delivery of practical on-ground activities that help to maintain the functioning of marine and island ecosystems.

The Galapagos World Heritage Area, located 1000 km from the South American continent, consists of 19 islands and is 130,000 square kilometres in size.

Name: GBRMPA media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846