Protecting livelihoods to save species

Galapagos is suffering – will you help?

The quiet main street in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal at sunset during pandemic 2020

The streets of Galapagos are eerily quiet due to the lack of tourism © Manuel Yepez

If you’ve travelled to Galapagos, you will have most likely been to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz. It would have been bustling with tourists, with restaurants full, taxi boats zipping around the harbour, sea lions competing with tourists for the sunniest spots and finches hopping around hoovering up leftover crumbs. If you visited today, it would be eerily quiet with many businesses closed and dozens of boats waiting for someone to come along.

Tourism is the largest employer on the Islands making up over 80% of the economy. In 2019, over 270,000 people visited Galapagos. In 2020, this dropped to 72,000 – a massive 73% decline. It isn’t just the obvious jobs that have gone such as nature guides and restaurant workers. Others, including shop owners and taxi drivers, have also been affected. Many local university students depend on tourism jobs to fund their studies – their education is now at risk. Before the pandemic, around 8% of Galapaguenian families were living below the poverty line. Without tourism, many more are now struggling to put food on the table.

Galapagos wildlife at risk

Shark caught on a long-line hook being pulled up into a boat

The reintroduction of long-line fishing in Galapagos would mean that protected marine species are at risk © Galapagos Sky Dive Vessel/Dive Masters

I know a lack of tourism may seem beneficial for wildlife, providing a ‘breather’ from human activities. However, financial hardship has increased the pressure on the Archipelago’s unique species, especially in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Under pressure to ‘reboot’ the economy, the authorities allowed previously banned long-line fishing to resume on a ‘trial basis’. The last time this type of fishing was allowed, regular bycatch included protected species such as sharks, green turtles and even sea lions. It has been estimated that if long-line fishing was permanently reinstated, over 10,000 sharks could be caught every year.

185 Galapagos giant tortoise hatchlings wrapped in plastic in a suitcase

185 Galapagos giant tortoise hatchlings were found wrapped in plastic at Baltra airport in March 2021 © Aeropuerto Ecologico de Galapagos

Land animals are also at risk. One of the worst cases of wildlife smuggling on the Islands occurred recently – on March 28, it was reported that 185 Galapagos giant tortoise hatchlings were found wrapped in plastic in a suitcase at one of the Galapagos airports. Ten died before they were rescued, another five on the way to the rescue facility. Incidents like these must not be allowed to happen. We must ensure that locals have alternative livelihood options.

We have the chance to rebuild a more sustainable Galapagos for the future. Will you help us?

Supporting livelihoods

We are helping locals to become more self-sufficient by providing more employment on the Islands and offering training opportunities outside of the tourism industry to benefit conservation. By helping the people of Galapagos, we will protect its iconic wildlife. Importantly, should another global disaster occur, local communities will be able to continue to live and work in a sustainable way.

“The only way to support conservation is to support people who are the first line of defence of natural
heritage. It is a call for collective action that generates will and support for all those in Ecuador, and in
the world, who love and support Galapagos.”

Norman Wray, President of the Galapagos Governing Council

A man wearing a mask is learning how to sample microplastics on a beach in Galapagos

We are supporting projects that provide employment and training for those in need © Anne Guezou

To give immediate financial help, we have joined forces with the United Nations Development Programme to provide emergency income for people who participate in plastic pollution clean-ups – a mutual benefit for people in need and cleaning the Islands’ beaches. Our local vegetable growing project is also helping families in need to put food on the table.

In addition, we are supporting an initiative to develop a Galapagos biodiversity library using DNA barcoding, which collects information about different species. The project is training community members in scientific techniques and funding jobs for trainees. The skills that the trainees will learn will not only provide essential jobs but will strengthen capacity for local scientific research, creating a more sustainable future for Galapagos science and conservation.

To protect the biodiversity of the Galapagos Marine Reserve we are seeking support to understand the true impact of long-line fishing, and to ensure that more sustainable fishing practices are used. Part of this work will be to make sure that sustainable fishers get access to higher-end markets, providing financial motivations to embrace environmentally friendly methods.

We are at a global crossroads. We must make the most of this opportunity to rebuild and embrace new, sustainable approaches where people and nature exist in harmony – but we need your help.

Every penny you give will go towards supporting our vital work so please donate as generously as you can. Together we can protect livelihoods to save species and create a more sustainable future for Galapagos.

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