Marine Protected Areas

Galapagos Marine Reserve expansion announced at COP26 summit

Written by Oceanographic Staff

The Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso announced a new marine reserve in the Galapagos during the COP26 climate change summit, making the already protected area around the islands approximately 60,000 km2 larger.

At around 133,000 km2, the Galapagos Marine Reserve is already one of the world’s largest marine reserves. According to the Ecuadorian president, the new addition will add around 60,000 km2 of protected area, while the expansion will include the Cocos Ridge off Costa Rica – an area that is known as an important feeding and migration area for endangered species such as hammerhead sharks, whales, manta rays and sea turtles.

The new reserve will complement the already existing marine reserve with two zones of 30,000 km2 each. While the first zone will be a no-take zone between Ecuador and Costa Rica where no fishing activities will be allowed, the second zone, situated in the northwest of the current Galapagos protected area, will be implemented as a no longline fishing zone to help prevent longline fishing in the area.

Paula A. Castaño, Island Conservation’s native species specialist, said: “The Galapagos Marine Reserve expansion is a big step for the protection of the biodiversity of this marine corridor. This region hosts a variety of ecosystems that play an important role in the carbon sequestration process, food security for human communities, and essential habitat for marine biodiversity, including some of the most charismatic and endangered species, such as whale sharks.”

The expansion will be financed by swapping debt for conservation, the Ecuadorian president noted. This act involves buying foreign debt, converting it into local currency and using it to fund conservation. Thereby, the country, alongside multilateral organisations, hopes to create a trust that will finance the preservation of the area, while improving the infrastructure and technology for the islands.

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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.

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