The twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Galapagos Marine Reserve marks an achievement and present-day triumph for conservation that stems the tide in the ongoing battle for preserving the world’s oceans and their creatures.
Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica have made an effective commitment to stand guard over their reserves in Galapagos, Malpelo, and Cocos.
In March of 2016, National Geographic announced that Ecuador had increased the size of the reserve to encompass an area of 50,000 square miles, including expanding the regions around Wolf and Darwin Islands in the northwest by 15,000 square miles. The waters around these islands have the highest percentage of sharks beneath the sea and are migrating sites for whale sharks, thousands of humpback whales, and schools of dolphins numbering in the hundreds.
The reserve was created in 1998, and stretched forty miles offshore-protecting the vast underwater eco-systems by limiting fishing and allowing the endangered species to regain their strength. In the past, shark fins, lobsters, and sea cucumbers have been harvested to dire levels, and the new reserve casts a wide net, curtailing illegal activity.
According to a study by the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas Project, each shark in the Galápagos is worth about $5.4 million over its lifetime, based on the tourism revenue that the islands generate.
There are underwater caves, cliffs, and canyons where schools of reef fish boggle the mind and sea turtles, a variety of rays, marine iguanas, penguins, sea lions, and fur seals are only a fraction of the creatures that live and feed in the nooks and crannies of the sea.
The vast reserve is a ggame changerfor conservation in the Galapagos Islands. Wolf and Darwin form one point in the Hammerhead Triangle-an area known for its dominant population of Hammerhead sharks. It is one of the few places in the world where the goggle-eyed beasts can be found in large numbers.
The Galapagos National Park takes a pro-active stance on protecting the marine life of the reserve. The park adjusts the fishing season for a number of sought after creatures annually-often sparking protests from local fishermen.
One alternative that is sponsored by the GNP is the licensing of Artisan Fishing Tours. Licensed fisherman offer day trips into the reserve, where the tried and true fishing methods are revealed and guests are given a rare chance to try their luck at catching lunch or dinner.
There are over 2,900 marine species that have been documented to date in the reserve. Each year with the arrival of the Humboldt Current between the months of June through December-the underwater eco-systems thrives in the cool, nutrient-rich waters.
Snorkeling and diving bring you face to face with millions of reef fish who are food to sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, and whales.
The small fish are also the main part of the Galapagos penguin’s diet. The small, sole members of its species in South America are often companions when snorkeling in the bay of Bartolome Island around Pinnacle Rock, and exploring the waters off of Isabela Island.