Victory for Sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve

Good news for the Galapagos Islands and for shark conservation! Today, the Ecuadorian government announced the creation of a new 15,000-square-mile marine sanctuary — an expansion of the “no-take” zone of the Galapagos Marine Reserve — around the small islands of Darwin and Wolf.

The new no-take zone, roughly the size of Belgium, will now be protected from fishing and other activities. Small-scale fishing cooperatives who support the new initiative had previously been allowed to operate in the area, but increased pressure from industrial trawlers and illegal shark fin hunters have necessitated increased protections.

The Galapagos marine environment is home to approximately 3,000 species, including more than 34 different species of shark, such as whale sharks, migratory hammerheads and the Galapagos shark. Even with the protection offered from marine reserves, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed worldwide every year, with fins from up to 73 million sharks used for shark fin soup.

Together with the Galapagos National Park Service and the Ecuadorian Navy, WildAid has implemented a comprehensive marine protection model in the Galapagos marine environment to strengthen enforcement efforts and management since 2002 — ensuring that marine sanctuaries truly offer protection from illegal fishing. WildAid’s ongoing work includes training its park rangers, patrol vessel maintenance and repairs, and implementation of new technologies to monitor the reserve.

Electronic surveillance, including tools provided by WildAid, has helped park rangers capture and sentence more than 100 industrial and artisanal fishing vessels, which was caught in 2011 with over 350 illegally caught sharks in its hold.

The new marine sanctuary and monitoring technology is crucial to the protection of Galapagos marine biodiversity. Thanks to your support, WildAid has helped improve surveillance and increase protection for endangered marine species, including sharks, in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.