Galapagos National Park’s Newest Patrol Boat Will Help Stop Illegal Fishing in Its Tracks

November 15, 2022; By Carolyn Sotka, Marine Grants Officer

A dream that began 5 years ago in the Galapagos National Park (GNP) is finally becoming a reality with the christening of the Metal Shark Inceptor 38’, the fastest and most technologically advanced patrol vessel in the Park’s history. The boat was named ‘Makaira’, after the blue marlin (Makaira nigricans), and chosen by Park rangers because of the boat’s speed. Marlin are among the largest and fastest fish in the world.

    In late October, the patrol boat Makaira was presented by WildAid’s Latin America team and the GNP to Gustavo Manrique Miranda, Minister of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition. Photo credit: WildAid

WildAid began working with the Ecuadorian government and the GNP in 2002 to better enforce the laws of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which stops all commercial fishing and only allows artisanal fishing within dedicated zones.

Park ranger at the helm of Makaira. Photo credit: WildAid

The Makaira is 3x faster than a typical fishing boat and will enable rangers to quickly intercept illegal fishers and identify hot spots of illegal activities. This is a win-win for the rangers to improve enforcement of the Reserve with a faster response, and better protect the iconic wildlife that live and migrate in these waters.

The Makaira is one of three planned vessels that will round out the Galapagos Marine Protection System and state-of-art Center for Marine Control and Monitoring, which was recently renovated and modernized. The combination of satellite surveillance and world-class technologies makes the Galapagos Marine Reserve one of the best-protected locations in the world.

Minister Manrique and Manuel Bravo, WildAid Latin America Program Director share their excitement for the new patrol vessel’s capacity to stop illegal fishers. Video credit: WildAid

“It is an honor to deliver Makaira to the Government of Ecuador and we thank all the donors that sponsored this state-of-art patrol vessel.”, said Manuel Bravo, WildAid Latin America Program Director. Photo credit: WildAid

Minister Manrique thanked WildAid and the GNP for supporting the renovated Center which can monitor 2,200 industrial fishing vessels per month for the newly created Reserva Marina de Hermandad. Hermandad is a massive new ocean corridor or swimway of 60,000 sq km that will connect Ecuadorian waters with Costa Rican waters and significantly enhance protection for migratory wildlife including humpback whales, sea turtles, giant manta rays, and endangered hammerhead sharks.

The Center for Marine Control and Monitoring. Photo credit: WildAid

The journey of Makaira began in 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana – where the Metal Shark boat manufacturer is located. Part of a critical fleet renewal plan for the GNP, the new boat was designed for the specific purpose of responding immediately to warnings of illegal fishing boats entering the Reserve.

This marks an essential step for the GNP in procuring patrol boats based on performance requirements versus receiving donated vessels that have exceeded their useful life. Photo credit: WildAid

The manufacturing and delivery of the Makaira were delayed by COVID-19 interruptions and supply chain challenges and finally, in September 2021, Meaghan Brosnan Director of the WildAid Marine Program signed for the donation at the Ecuadorian consulate. Makaira’s at-sea trials took place in April 2022 in Louisiana, shipped via cargo boat to the Galapagos in August, with the dedication ceremony in October 2022.

WildAid is thrilled to support and deliver a patrol vessel of this caliber to the GNP. It was acquired through technical cooperation and as part of the “Maritime Fleet Renewal Plan and Galapagos Marine Reserve Control Strategy,” developed by WildAid in 2018. Makaira was built thanks to the collaboration of several donors, including the Blue Action Fund, who believe in WildAid’s work, ocean conservation, and the critical role of effective enforcement.