The Galápagos: Conservation in Action

Karl Egloff July 13, 2016 4

“The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention,” wrote Charles Darwin.  As a WWF supporter, staff member, and recent NatHab traveler, one of the things I found most impressive about the Galápagos was WWF’s long relationship and history with the islands.

Sustainable Energy

© Karl Egloff/WWF-US

© Karl Egloff/WWF-US

In Baltra, where I first boarded our boat, I was greeted by a sign explaining an initiative that World Wildlife Fund and Toyota have undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the environmental risk of the transport of fuel by 2020.  One of the main goals is to replace diesel fuel for electricity generation with solar energy, wind energy and biofuels. The Galápagos may not reach all these sustainability goals by 2020, but progress has been made and the evidence is everywhere.  Large wind turbines and solar panels were visible as we first landed at the Balta Airport.  Energy from these wind turbines supply power for Puerto Ayora, the largest community on the islands. The solar panels power the Balta Airport, the world’s first “green” airport which opened in 2013.

Successful Recycling Program

The Galápagos Islands are decades ahead of many modern cities when it comes to recycling.  Recycling is essential in the islands as there are no landfills or facilities to deal with the roughly 8000 tons of trash generated on Santa Cruz per year by the tourist boats and communities.  In 2006, WWF and Toyota created a successful waste manage system where recyclables can be reused locally.  In Puerto Ayora, the sidewalks glitter with tiny pieces of recycled crushed glass that was mixed into the concrete.  Organic waste accounts for about half of the garbage so an industrial compost system has been installed that supplies compost to local greenhouses and farms.  And WWF is working to educate locals and visitors to better understand responsible consumption by decreasing waste and encouraging recycling.

Research for the Future of the Galápagos

WWF was one of the first organizations to provide the required support for the establishment of the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, Galápagos. © Karl Egloff/WWF-US

WWF was one of the first organizations to provide the required support for the establishment of the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, Galápagos. © Karl Egloff/WWF-US

Another WWF sign awaits visitors at the Darwin Research Station. Here, WWF provided funding for the construction of the Charles Darwin Foundation Research Station in 1962.  Today WWF and the research station continue to work together to conduct research and create policies that protect the islands.

In addition to becoming a leading scientific institution that has hosted researchers from around the world, the Charles Darwin Foundation Research Station – which a WWF grant helped establish – has played a central role in raising awareness amongst local people and the Ecuadorian government of the importance of preserving the Galápagos’ unique species. Together with other work by WWF and partners, this contributed to the passing of the Galápagos Special Law in 1998 and the establishment of the Galápagos Marine Reserve, the second-largest marine reserve at the time. WWF’s early recognition of the importance of awareness-raising has contributed in no small part to the current global level of environmental consciousness.

Solar-Powered Transportation

Originally confiscated from illegal fishing operations; WWF transformed this boat to demonstrate the importance of renewable energy and the need for a smaller human footprint in this delicate marine environment. WWF encourages the community to adopt energy alternatives and uses the boat as an educational tool. © WWF-Ecuador

Originally confiscated from illegal fishing operations; WWF transformed this boat to demonstrate the importance of renewable energy and the need for a smaller human footprint in this delicate marine environment. WWF encourages the community to adopt energy alternatives and uses the boat as an educational tool. © WWF-Ecuador

In Puerto Ayora we also saw the Solaris, a solar powered boat that was a joint project between WWF and the Galápagos National Park. The project demonstrates that a boat free of emissions and noise pollution is possible in the Galápagos. Today the boat is primarily used for educating the public about renewable energy. The knowledge gained from the project is being applied to a new generation of solar boats used to transfer passengers between Baltra and Santa Cruz.

Artisanal Fishing

Local fishermen catching fish Galapagos Islands, Ecuador © Pablo Corral/WWF

Local fishermen catching fish Galapagos Islands, Ecuador © Pablo Corral/WWF

The Galápagos Islands are one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, so I was surprised to learn that the Galápagos is home to an artisanal fishing industry, these are usually small-scale operations for subsistence or small markets.  Overfishing and an increase in illegal fishing has seriously depleted Galápagos’ waters of several key species, including the spiny lobster and the sea cucumber. Overfishing harmsmarine environments and ultimately hurts communities that depend on the fish. WWF collaborates with fishing communities to embrace sustainable practices that protect the marine ecosystem and fishing industry. WWF is also working with local fishermen to apply sustainable principles and maximize their catch by increasing their incomes through a market certification scheme.  This increases the value for their catch, allowing fish stocks to recover while reducing physical and financial burdens on the fisherman.

For years I’ve read about WWF’s work, but to see it in person was rewarding and memorable.  I am more proud than ever to support WWF and the important work being done in the Galápagos and around the world.

4 Comments »

  1. Julissa Gomez August 3, 2016 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for your article on the Galápagos. I’m a science teacher and would love to visit the islands and its incredible creatures. Can you recommend a tour that would make this dream come true?

    Thank you,
    Julissa

    • Nick Grossman August 23, 2016 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      Hello Julissa,
      We would recommend one of Natural Habitat Adventures’ Galapagos tours. Please visit http://www.nathab.com/galapagos or call an Adventure Specialist at 800-543-8917 for more information. Thanks for your interest in the Galapagos Islands!

  2. laura daniels August 3, 2016 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Thank you for all your tireless work. Our children, & their children thank you.

  3. William August 3, 2016 at 4:14 am - Reply

    For the animals

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