Ecuador President Announces Expansion Of Galapagos Reserve By 23,000 Square Miles At COP26

Ecuador’s president has announced the expansion of the marine protection area around the Galapagos Islands by 23,000 square miles.

President Guillermo Lasso has also announced the establishment of a protected marine corridor from the Islands to Costa Rica, which had previously been used by shark finning fleets.

Ecuador’s president made the announcement at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in the Scottish city of Glasgow on Monday, 1st November.

A Humpback Whale jumping from the waters in the Galapagos Islands. (Jo Anne Rosen/Newsflash )

US nonprofit Galapagos Conservancy commented on the announcement in a statement released the following day, on 2nd November.

The Galapagos Conservancy said that it was “thrilled” with the announcement of the creation of a protected area that is 2.5 times the size of the state of Maryland and that “covers more water surface area than Lake Michigan”.

The marine protected area’s total size is currently 47.4 million acres (74,062 square miles).

Green sea turtle with steel pompano. (Matthew Meier/Newsflash )

The archipelago is where English naturalist Charles Darwin’s developed his theory of evolution, not least thanks to the countless unique species that inhabit it.

The endemic species on the islands such as the critically endangered Galapagos pink land iguana (Conolophus marthae) and the legendary Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis) are under constant threat from invasive species, hunting and climate change.

Just last month, in October,the Galapagos Conservancy discovered the decomposing remains of 15 Galapagos giant tortoises, which they believe were victims of illegal poaching.

An illustration of the corridoer between Galapagos and Costa Rica. (MigraMar, Alex Hearn/Newsflash)

The number of Galapagos pink land iguanas left on the Island has plummeted to just a few hundred, as hunting and the introduction of rodents have decimated the population.

The Galapagos Conservancy said: “The declaration also creates an essential migratory corridor that bridges the gap between the protected waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve and Costa Rica’s Cocos Island National Park.

“This previously unprotected band of water in the Eastern Pacific, known as the Galapagos-Cocos Swimway, is an underwater superhighway for an array of threatened and endangered migratory species like Whale Sharks, Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, Manta Rays, Sea Turtles, [and] Tuna…”

Golden Rays swimming off the coast of the Galapagos. (Jennifer Anderson/Newsflash )

By protecting the corridor between the two UNESCO World Heritage marine sites, which was a hotspot for commercial fishing and even shark finning, marine life can now be protected.

The organisation added: “We expect that populations of these threatened and endangered species will soon begin to rebound, and we hope that this agreement between Ecuador and Costa Rica will serve as a model for multinational collaboration in marine conservation going forward.”

It added: “Although conservation work is never done, today we can celebrate a major victory for Galapagos and for our planet.”

Newborn turtle on a beach in the Galapagos. (John Shore/Newsflash )

The Galapagos Conservancy has helped to protect the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands by supporting research, conservation, outreach, and building a sustainable society since 1968.

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