The Project

Home to the Densest Shark Population in the World


Located off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are home to nearly 3,000 marine species; 20% of these are found nowhere else on earth. Its rich marine ecosystems support the concentration and reproduction of various migratory marine species, including 34 shark species, humpback whales, sea turtles, giant manta rays, and endangered hammerhead sharks.


The Galapagos Marine Reserve was created in 1998 in response to declining marine populations and only allows small artisanal fishing within dedicated zones. 25,000 people inhabit the islands and depend on a thriving ocean to support the economy via tourism and small-scale fishing.


WildAid Marine partnered with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and Galapagos National Park in 2002 to enforce the laws of the Galapagos Marine Reserve and prevent illegal fishing within its borders.

Galapagos: The Challenge

For many years, the Galapagos struggled with extensive illegal fishing, with an estimated 12,000 sharks poached in 2009 alone. Sea cucumbers were nearly decimated after extensive demand from Asian markets led to a complete collapse of the fishery. With limited resources and funding, park rangers were unable to ensure protection of the Reserve.

Our Impact

Putting Our Model Into Action

We helped our partners reach the Regional Leadership stage and develop a comprehensive Marine Protection System Plan for the 51,000 square mile reserve. As a result, the Galapagos now boasts the densest shark population in the world.

Surveillance and Enforcement_icon2

We helped procure satellite vessel monitoring systems (VMS and AIS) that can survey 100% of the Reserve, establish patrolling strategies to cover the most threatened areas, and acquire patrol equipment and uniforms. Key sea cucumber and spiny lobster fisheries are now monitored to check population changes and ensure sustainable fishing. Spiny lobster populations continue to increase, due to sustainable fishing quotas. Likewise, the sea cucumber fishery has dramatically increased in population size, but the fishery is not yet recovered and will remain closed until it fully rebounds.

Training and Mentorship_icon2

We helped our partners train and certify all rangers and MPA managers, and host peer-to-peer exchanges and regional workshops for other countries in Latin America.

Consistent Funding_icon2

WildAid Marine has secured additional funding for enforcement operations and systems, including the establishment of a dedicated enforcement trust fund.

Community Engagement_icon2

Sea cucumber and spiny lobster fisheries are now monitored in collaboration with artisanal fishing co-ops to check population changes and ensure sustainable fishing. Both spiny lobster and sea cucumber populations continue to increase due to ongoing fishing quotas and fishery closures.

Policies and Consequences_icon2

We have conducted joint trainings between Galapagos lawyers and enforcement officials to ensure successful prosecution of environmental crimes and establish a legal database to track all cases.


increase in sea cucumber populations between 2017 and 2018 due to the ongoing fishery closure.


tons of sharks are found in the Galapagos per hectare, making it the densest shark population in the world.


of all environmental crimes were successfully prosecuted and sanctioned over one year.

Our Partners