Twelve percent of marine species in tropical eastern Pacific threatened Twelve percent of marine species in tropical eastern Pacific threatened

February 24, 2012 § 1 Comment


Twelve percent of marine species surveyed in the Gulf of California, the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica and the five offshore oceanic islands and archipelagos in the tropical eastern Pacific are threatened with extinction, according to a study by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and its partners. Main threats to the region’s marine flora and fauna include over-fishing, habitat loss and increasing impacts from the El Nino Southern Oscillation.

Released this week, the study is the first IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ assessment available for all known species of marine shore-fish, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, corals, mangroves and seagrasses in a major marine biogeographic region. The analysis identifies specific geographic zones where conservation efforts are needed most, including around the mouth of the Gulf of California and the coastlines of Panama and Costa Rica, while also identifying the nature and location of the greatest dangers to marine life.

“Understanding species vulnerability to major threats is paramount for determining how species and marine environments are likely to respond to one or more simultaneous threats,” says Beth Polidoro, Research Associate, IUCN Marine Biodiversity Unit, and lead author of the study. “Identification of threatened species and patterns of threat in the tropical eastern Pacific region can help guide local and regional marine conservation priorities for biodiversity conservation, as well as serve to inform policy.”

In recent years, at least 20 marine species have gone extinct around the world, and more than 133 local populations of marine species have suffered a similar fate. These include the disappearance of the endemic Galapagos Damselfish (Azurina eupalama) during the events of El Niño from 1982-1983. Drastic declines have also been documented across several marine groups, including many populations of commercial fish, coral reef fish, reef-building corals, mangroves, and seagrasses. Two commercial marine fish, the Totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and the Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas) are listed as Critically Endangered, and were once common in the waters of southern California and the Gulf of California, Mexico. Both species are extremely desirable for human consumption but have limited ability to cope with severe over-fishing because they have long life spans and the large groups they form when spawning are often targeted by fishers—reducing the chances of rebuilding sustainable populations.

“Saving threatened species is the single most important thing we can do to safeguard ocean health, which benefits millions of people that depend on thriving and productive oceans,” says Scott Henderson, Regional Director of Marine Conservation at Conservation International and co-author of the study. “This new study is a monumental scientific effort which gives governments and support organizations the information needed to focus conservation dollars on the species, places and problems that need help the most.”

The findings reinforce that conservation action is needed for both marine species and the geographic areas where they are most threatened. For example, the creation of a marine protected area around Clipperton Island in the eastern Pacific Ocean should be a high priority, as it has one of the highest proportions of threatened species in the tropical eastern Pacific, and is the only one of the five oceanic islands and archipelagos in the region that lacks complete governmental protection. Legislation to limit mangrove removal from important fishery nursing grounds along the coasts of Costa Rica and Panama is also vital, according to the study. Additionally, better data collection, reporting and monitoring for both targeted and by-catch fisheries species should be an urgent priority for the improvement of marine conservation efforts throughout the region.

“There are tangible steps that we can take to curtail the risk of extinction of species in the tropical eastern Pacific,” says Tom Brooks, NatureServe’s Chief Scientist. “For example, for the few fishery species that are threatened, we must work towards better management on both local and regional scales. We can make a difference, but first we must collect and use the valuable data available.”


Among the Marine Species mentioned are Waved Albatross endemic to the island of Espanola and several species of Sea Turtles found in the Galapagos Islands


Manta Rays receive international protection from the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

WildAid applauds the recent listing of the giant manta ray (Manta birostris) under Appendix I and II in the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an international treaty organization concerned with conserving migratory species and habitats on a global scale. Listed on November 25, 2011, member countries are now obligated to provide strict national protections for giant manta rays and their key habitats.

Despite being protected in several countries, manta rays migrate into unprotected waters where they are subject to overfishing. CMS listing will spark coordinated conservation efforts among member countries to monitor the species and protect its habitat.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which declared giant manta rays as Vulnerable with an elevated risk of extinction earlier this month, intense fishing pressures and growing international consumer demand have caused manta ray populations to decline by 30% worldwide, with some regions experiencing an 80% decline over the last 75 years.

Manta rays and their close cousin, mobula rays, are highly valued in Chinese traditional medicine for their gill rakers, cartilaginous projections along the gill arches used for trapping food particles when filter-feeding. Previously targeted by small-scale subsistence fisheries, increasing consumer demand has expanded the gill raker trade into a global commercial industry. According to the IUCN, targeted manta ray fisheries now operate in critical habitats and well-known aggregation sites in the Philippines, Mexico, Mozambique, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Tanzania and Indonesia.

The Manta Ray of Hope project, a joint effort of WildAid and Shark Savers, assisted Ecuador’s CMS delegates in shaping the proposal to list manta rays as well as made available to all CMS delegates a condensed version of its forthcoming Manta Ray of Hope report prior to the 10th CMS meeting in Bergen, Norway earlier this month.

The report, which will be released to the public in December, provides the most far-reaching documentation ever conducted on the intensive overfishing of mantas and mobulas and the growing pressures that have pushed these animals to the brink of local extinctions.

“CMS listing is a critical step needed to end the exploitation of mantas and mobulas”, said Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid. “By harnessing the cooperation and concerted efforts of member states, the CMS listing sets the stage for cohesive monitoring and regulation of the gill raker trade”.

For its submission to CMS, the Manta Ray of Hope team, led by Shawn Heinrichs, worked with partners in Ecuador, the country that sponsored the move to protect mantas, including local NGO Equilibrio Azul. The team also consulted with Dr. Andrea Marshall, Guy Stevens and Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International in advance of the CMS meeting to assist with preparations.

About Manta Ray of Hope: WildAid, Shark Savers, and a team of the top manta researchers in the world are partners in the Manta Ray of Hope project, a collaboration of non-profit organizations, researchers, dive operators, governments and local communities to save mantas and mobulas from this unsustainable trade. Manta Ray of Hope is developing global conservation campaigns based on sound science, including:

  • An upcoming report on the destructive fishing and consumption of Mobulids.
  • Establishment of trade bans and sanctuaries.
  • Education and awareness campaigns for consumers.
  • Ecotourism development in fishing communities.

Manta Ray of Hope receives support from the Silvercrest Foundation, Hrothgar Investments Ltd, and private donors.

For more information, please visit 

Read about the Manta Ray Study in Ecuador and Galapagos

Illegal Shark Fishing Continues in Galapagos

October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

From El Commercial

Illegal shark fishing continues in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The draft boat operations within the marine reserve is against the law because Sharks are considered a protected species.

Despite the seriousness of these actions, which are considered environmental crimes, and therefore punishable by imprisonment for those involved, the prosecution authorities, the National Park Service and several environmental organizations are very concerned because the judges have released all detainees.

The authorities of Marine Resources and the Office of Environment conducted an operation in the bay and located 225 shark fins. The prosecutor of the Environment, Jose Cevallos, reported that along with the Police authorities, Navy and National Park (PNG) are carried out constant surveillance operations and intelligence to locate the fishing boats illegally entering the Reserve.  However, these criminal operations could be increased, warned Cevallos, encouraged by the performance concessive and accomplice of some judges.

Since last July have been located and captured two ships of industrial fishing in the reserve: the Mary Fer I and six fibers, discovered on July 18.  In that boat were transported 357 sharks, 20 miles inside the reserve. 22 crew members were also captured.

On September 17, Navy personnel stopped fishing the Reina del Cisne and two fibers, which were fishing 34 miles from Punta Pitt on San Cristobal Island (6 miles within the Reserve).  Given the blatant crime, the prosecutor acted Cevallos office, in coordination with the park authorities, filing appropriate actions before Judge Criminal Guarantees First, Jorge Cabrera Monserrate, who initially ordered the imprisonment of 12 people.

Unexpectedly, the judge on Tuesday declared the nullity of this trial, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the process that should be handled in Superior Court in Guayaquil.

“I just made the judge is an outrage, because it is failing against the provisions of the Special Law for Galapagos, which empowers judges to judge the islands environmental crimes, even if there is a Superior Court.  Is setting a disastrous precedent, “said Carlos Zapata, Conservation Sector, Science and Education of Galapagos.

Once declared invalid, the judge lifted the arrest warrants and the seizure of the ship, and authorized their departure.

It is not the first time that judges everything thrown into contrast the combined work of the authorities.  Edwin Naula, head of PNG, said the judges in the Galapagos have shown what is a constant in the whole country, not just failure to apply, according to law. One of the most outrageous, he added, is that of Mary Fer, the judge changed the precautionary measures by releasing the 20 involved, and only two remain in the Galapagos with the obligation to appear in court weekly.  “In practice we have a process without charge, resulting in impunity and the consequent stimulus to this illegal activity.”

Judicial decisions have also raised alarm among representatives of international foundations.  Alex Cornelissen, director of Sea Shepherd, did not hide his anger over the latest court decisions, “do not help strengthen the culture of single-species conservation in the Galapagos Islands.”  Read the Sea Shepherd plea regarding Lady Justice has abandoned Galapagos

Last August, the Conservation Sector, Science and Education sent an official letter asking the Judicial Council to take action on the matter and monitor the performance of judges.  The letter has not been answered yet.

A judicial Recourse

The Conservation Sector, Science and Education submitted an amicus curiae on 26 September before the Environmental Office and the First Court of Criminal Guarantees Galapagos. This resource is part of the monitoring vessel to the case of Mary Fer I.

This resource is a form of citizen participation, which allows the company to provide specialized legal advice and relevant information about a specific case and inform the judge about environmental issues.

Galapagos National Park Seeks to Control Invasive Species

October 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

Image from the Galapagos National Park

On the island of San Cristobal, the Galapagos National Park Service is working to control the number of introduced species in the islands specifically the rat and cat population.  This increased effort to eradicate these species is being done after monitoring of visitor sites on San Cristobal showed the presence of these animals.

Scientists have long agreed that introduced plants and animals are the single greatest threat to the Galapagos ecosystem.   Black rats are responsible for killing of the sharp-beaked finch population on the islands of Santa Cruz.  Park officials say there are a total of 50 bird species currently endangered by rodents, 8 of them critically as well as giant tortoises, iguanas and a series of plants.  Rats are omnivores and will eat whatever they encounter including animal eggs.

Similarly feral cats have been known to endanger a range of species.   Park officials have previous stepped up their eradication efforts after finding feral cats were preying on colonies of iguanas on Santa Cruz and Baltra,  red-footed boobies on San Cristobal and penguins on Isabela.

In San Cristobal the rodent bait is being placed at 83 stations near the Interpretation Center and Isla Lobos.  Additionally 160 stations of baited sardines are being established to control cats from Punta Carola, Frigatebird Hill, Puerto Chino and La Loberia. Park authorities say approximately 70% of the traps are currently in place and daily monitoring of the sites has already began.

New Threat to Galapagos Wildlife Studied

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

From American Journal of Tropical Medicine Hygiene

Lead author PhD student Gillian Eastwood says: “Whilst WNV does not yet exist in Galapagos, it is important to envisage what future disease scenarios could be by looking at how this particular virus would interact within this unique ecosystem. Evaluating the role that mosquitoes could play is therefore vital. This recent part of our work is however only one aspect to understanding potential WNV transmission on the Islands; it remains to see how severely Galapagos wildlife might be affected but all precautions should be taken.”

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the University of Leeds and the New York State Department of Health, together with the Galapagos National Park Service and University of Guayaquil, have been stuFdying the disease threat posed by Islands’ mosquito populations. They have discovered that a species of these biting insects is capable of transmitting West Nile virus, a potentially dangerous disease for the archipelago’s unique wildlife.

West Nile virus (WNV) most commonly affects birds, but can infect mammals, including humans, and reptiles. Previous studies of West Nile virus impact in the USA have linked the virus to declines in several bird populations, demonstrating the high risk it poses to the Galápagos’ endemic species. The virus recently invaded South America, but has yet to reach the Galapagos.

Recent studies on tourist boats and planes have shown that the mosquito species Culex quinquefasciatus (also known as the Southern house mosquito) is hitching a ride onto the Galápagos on airliners. Culex species are well-known vectors of WNV elsewhere in the world, so their presence on the Islands has caused concern amongst the scientific community.

The ability of mosquitoes to transmit particular disease agents effectively often varies between species, or between populations within species. Therefore to understand the risk posed by C. quinquefasciatus in Galápagos, the research team measured the ability of Galapagos C. quinquefasciatus to pick up and transmit WNV in the lab, under conditions that simulated those in the wild. They found that Galapagos C. quinquefasciatus were indeed effective vectors for the virus.

Prof Andrew Cunningham from ZSL says: “We now know that mosquitoes capable of carrying West Nile virus have a route onto the Galápagos, and once there, the virus could also spread into the local mosquito population. This means there is potential for large impacts on endemic species. There is no doubt that West Nile virus poses a serious threat to the survival of the Galapagos’ iconic wildlife.”

In order to reduce the chances of West Nile virus reaching the islands, the authors suggest further research to determine the presence of WNV in the mainland Ecuador, plus strict enforcement insect control measures on aircraft and ships moving between the mainland and islands.

Dr Simon Goodman from the University of Leeds says: “Piece by piece we are building up a comprehensive picture of the disease ecology in Galápagos and what could happen if WNV were to reach the islands. Once WNV has been introduced onto the Galápagos, it would be much harder to contain. Therefore the best strategy is to have strict preventive measures to reduce the chance of the disease reaching the islands in the first place.”

Park Officials Receive the Gift of Bicycles

August 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

AeroGal and Galapagos Touring and steam (IGTV), donated six bicycles to the Galapagos National Park (GNPS) to raise awareness in the ecology of the islands and reduce vehicle emissions. The aim is to introduce throughout the archipelago over a thousand bikes made ​​especially for the Galapagos, to encourage the use of a vehicle that does not generate CO2 emissions, for daily transportation and thus support the conservation of this World Heritage humanity.

These Ecobike are made of a non-corrosive material.  IGTV and AeroGal provided the bicycles as a sample at different government entities including the Galapagos National Park Service, Interior, National Police , Governing Council, among others.

The Galapagos National Park distributed the bikes  among the guards to use during their various official activities. The bikes complements the mobility policy promoted by the national government, which is encouraging alternative system of transportation, including bicycle lanes on the islands of San Cristobal and Santa Cruz.

In June Ecuadorian President Correa was in Galapagos in June and supported the efforts to Bicivilízate Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.  We encourage the greater use of bicycles in Galapagos including the intoduction of bicycle taxis replacing motor taxis for transportation within town limits.

Galapagos Park Officials seek to Stop Hotel Construction

August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Photo of construction in August 2011

In May, Galapagos residents headed to social media to stop the construction of a hotel being built in the Punta Estrada area. The owners claimed who was building the large complex claimed it was a home to be used by he and his friends. Yet the architectual design was of independant rooms of equal size and a central pool – a design and size that is clearly more hotel than vacation home. The social action raised awareness of the building and the violation of the permits and the building permits were resinded by court order. However this did not seem to stop the owner from his desire to complete the hotel.

Photo of construction in May 2011Last week, officials from the Galapagos National Park Service found that the construction resumed, even violating the security seals placed on the door access to the property. This event is a repeat offender, Galapagos National Park authorities along with members of the National Police rushed to the scene to verify these illegal acts (violation of seals and resumption of work) so we proceeded to the removal of workers, the complaint was made corresponding to the prosecutor of the Galapagos, and turned to close the site with security seals.

Punta Estrada is located on the island of Santa Cruz.  It is considered part of Puerto Ayora and is accessible only by boat.  The land surrounding Punta Estrada is part of the Galapagos National Park.  The property is overlooks a series of lagoons that provides habitat for sea birds.


 The Galapagos National Park Service, Edwin Naula, accompanied by legal advisers of the institution and a group of law enforcement officials, approached the construction site to make sure you abide by the provision the judge, who suspended the work. In this action, it was observed that there were people who continued with the construction, so we proceeded to the apprehension of them. The detainees were taken to the Police to be under orders of the competent authority.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Galapagos Conservation category at GALAPAGOS BLOG.

%d bloggers like this: