Conservation of the Galapagos Islands
It’s hard to imagine but until the 1950’s the amazing and unique Galapagos Islands were used as a penal colony for harden criminals. Although some islands were designated wildlife sanctuaries as early as 1934, it was not until 1959 that the Ecuadorian Government declared the entire Galapagos a national park and the Charles Darwin Foundation was setup to monitor and preserve the incredible flora and fauna found here. In 1960, the Charles Darwin Research Station was also created on the Isla Santa Cruz that continues to work till today with the goal to gather valuable knowledge and information about these fantastic islands and their incredible inhabitants.
In 1986, in an aim to protect the islands and its neighboring environments even more, the government created the Galapagos Marine Reserve which covers over 133,000 sq km of the Pacific Ocean surrounding the islands. This includes a whale sanctuary, a biosphere reserve and a RAMSAR wetlands site. In 1998 the Government of Ecuador also passed a law providing further protection to the Galapagos and its encompassing areas, and has also called for the encouragement of scientific and educational research of the islands.
While many conservation efforts are being made to protect and safeguard the Galapagos, it must be said that tourism has had a negative impact on the very fragile ecosystem here. With the Galapagos boasting the highest standards of living in the country, the population on these islands are rapidly growing and putting pressure on the archipelago’s delicate natural balance. This in turn is further threatening to unhinge the Galapagos’ distinct environment.
Considered to be the ‘Laboratory of Evolution’, today these islands also face the threat of over fishing. With many local fishermen looking to make a quick buck, a lot of over fishing has been done in the surrounding waters, causing some species of fish and seals to face near extinction. One of the more recent environmental disasters to negatively impact the Galapagos has been an oil spill that occurred in 2001, when a ship ran aground near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, causing 180,000 gallons of fuel to leak into the ocean.