Notes from the Field: The Galapagos, August 2020

September 10, 2020; By Molly Shane, Marine Program Coordinator

In August 2020, WildAid Marine and the Galapagos National Park Directorate coordinated a virtual peer-to-peer learning exchange with The National Forest Corporation (CONAF) and Pew Patagonia. The virtual exchange focused on sharing lessons learned and best practices for marine protected area (MPA) management from the Galapagos as CONAF looks to determine a path forward for their parks in Patagonia.

Over the past twenty years, the Galapagos National Park (GNP), in partnership with WildAid Marine, has made substantial improvements in marine surveillance, enforcement, and general park management. For years, the Park struggled to control illegal shark finning, fishing, and poaching within its boundaries. Limited resources, training, technology, and staff capacity meant the Park was protected in name only. Today, the Park’s efforts to invest in strong management and enforcement have paid off – the Park now has one of the densest shark populations in the world and is frequently recognized for its outstanding conservation achievements. The GNP is now seen as a Regional Leader in marine conservation and protected areas management, serving as a critical resource and mentor throughout Latin America.

Peer-to-peer learning exchanges serve as a cost-effective way to scale our model, build relationships, share best practices, and support fellow MPA managers in their efforts to strengthen marine protection throughout the region.

The recent virtual exchange between Ecuador and Chile brought together forty delegates from Chilean Patagonia, the GNP, WildAid Marine, and Pew. Discussions centered around using the evolution of the GNP as a case study to help inform management decisions and strategies in Chilean Patagonia. GNP officials shared the management history of the Park, delving into the challenges and opportunities posed by integrating the terrestrial park and marine reserve under one unified management plan. They also highlighted the development of the regulatory framework that has allowed the Park to implement participatory management strategies and streamline institutional coordination. Finally, attendees explored how different management programs addressing everything from zoning to tourism to fishing can further the goal of conserving biodiversity.

The successful exchange not only highlighted the value of regional collaboration but also confirmed that virtual exchanges can be an effective replacement for in-person meetings while COVID-19 prevents widespread travel. Successful marine protection at scale will require the commitment of countries and protected areas to connect and share experiences in order to avoid a costly learning curve.

Building on the momentum generated by the exchange, WildAid Marine and Pew Patagonia are exploring the possibility of further collaboration to strengthen the management of protected areas in Chilean Patagonia.