WildAid Marine & the Galapagos Begin Implementation of New Marine Protection System Plan

February 16, 2021; By Molly Shane, Marine Program Officer

In November 2020, WildAid Marine and the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) finished drafting a new Marine Protection System Plan for the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). The goal of the new Plan is to ensure that laws and regulations in the GMR are well-enforced and that the Reserve receives the high level of protection needed to meet conservation objectives.

The team analyzed current monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) operations in the GMR by taking a comprehensive look into the status of all the departments involved in Park operations, including Institutional Planning, Ecosystems, Legal, Public Use, Environmental Management, Environmental Education and Social Participation, and Financial Administration. Due to the unique legal framework governing the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve, the team also assessed the current state of coordination between the GNPD and various external actors, including the Navy, Environmental Police, airport authorities, and others, that play an important role in the application of the law in protected areas in Ecuador.

Once the assessment phase was complete, WildAid Marine and the GNPD developed a new Marine Protection System Plan that lays out a comprehensive strategy to improve the overall effectiveness of the GMR. The Plan identifies twenty key findings and recommendations to improve marine surveillance, enforcement, and compliance within the GMR over a five-year period (2021-2025). Our overarching goal was to identify priority investment areas that will improve natural resource management and law enforcement in the marine environment.

At the start of 2021, WildAid Marine and the GNPD began carrying out one of the key recommendations outlined in both the new Marine Protection System Plan and the Fleet Renewal Plan that WildAid Marine and the GNPD crafted in 2018. This recommendation entails the acquisition of the first of three new patrol vessels called “Interceptors.” The Interceptors, the 38 Defiant model by Metal Shark, are lighter and faster and will complement the existing patrol fleet. The product of advanced engineering, the 38 Defiant boasts a modern, crew-friendly design that enhances crew comfort, safety, and operability. Importantly, these vessels are purpose-built for law enforcement operations and will increase the efficiency of interdiction, monitoring, control, and surveillance of the GMR.

The acquisition of three Interceptor vessels is a key piece of the new MCS strategy in the GMR. Existing intelligence sources, including satellite monitoring or plane-based patrols, will be used to identify threats and the information will be relayed to the Interceptors for a rapid response. The vessels will be moored in strategic locations throughout the GMR so that they can respond quickly to the highest priority threats. By strengthening the patrol fleet, the GNPD will be well-positioned to ensure effective management and enforcement of the GMR.