September 20, 2009
The emblematic Galapagos Islands have been always considered as a model of environmental management, which includes strict protection of the natural habitats, regulated human activities such as tourism, fishing, farming, commerce, transportation, etc. The Constitution of Ecuador establishes special regulations for Galapagos and a Special Galapagos Law unfolds the details of management of the Archipelago.
The awareness of the local community and all the actors involved on the islands’ human activities is vital to ensure a long term, truly sustainable development hand in hand with the protection of the fragile and unique ecosystems, terrestrial and marine.
Within this context, two events took place last week in the Islands which demonstrate the degree of involvement of authorities, students, visitors, entrepreneurs and the local community in general.
The II Fair of the Seas
The Ecuadorian Navy through its Department of Environmental Marine Education; together with the Galapagos National Park and various other institutions, companies and individuals, public and private, organized the Second Fair of the Seas.
The event consisted of a public Exhibit along San Cristobal’s Charles Darwin Ecological Waterfront where original stands arranged by the Navy; the National Park; the Charles Darwin Foundation; the local Chamber of Tourism; the local campus of the San Francisco University; the organized Fishing sector and Educational institutions displayed the projects, programs and activities which they conduct, support or participate in relation with the promotion, conservation and management of the natural resources, focused particularly on the marine ecosytems.
The Fair was visited by hundreds of students from the local schools and educational centers; by members of the community and attracted the attention of numerous national and international visitors, touring the islands. According to the organizers, the central purpose was to raise the consciousness and interest in the preservation of the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the objective was certainly accomplished.
Coastal Cleaning World Day in Galapagos
A local idea born in Galapagos some ten years ago and picked by the international NGO, Ocean Conservancy, made possible the establishment of a World Coastal Cleaning Day. The chosen day: September 18 of each year. The main idea is not only to enhance environmental awareness, particularly related to trash disposal, contamination, cleaning and management; but to trigger new projects and initiatives to keep the coastal areas and the seas clean and spared by the devastating effects of hundreds of human made materials.
The Galapagos Ecuador Foundation, non-for-profit organization created ten years ago by Ecuador’s leading travel organization, Metropolitan Touring, and now supported by several other tour operators, institutions and individuals took the lead this year, as in the last five, to organize a massive coastal cleaning event to commemorate this special day. Volunteers, students, community members, authorities and even some visitors joined in a systematically organized collection of waste along the coasts around and near Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, amidst a festive atmosphere of solidarity with nature and the environment.
The Foundation conducts a permanent program of coastal cleaning with the support of local and foreign volunteers and institutions like the Galapagos National Park, the Municipalities, Ecuadorian Navy, etc. It also manages a self-sustained Waste Recycling Center in Santa Cruz, which has been considered an example to be followed. Here, glass from bottles, cardboard and other waste material are recycled and converted into useful materials. Plastics, tin cans and other materials are crushed and sent by cargo boats to the mainland for further treatment.
Metropolitan Touring’s Finch Bay Hotel collaborates with training programs for the community and particularly one to prepare divers specialized in ocean cleaning to join in this ambitious long-term project which begins to show its results, both in the attitude of the local population, vessels crews and visitors, as well as on the increasing amount and variety of materials annually collected.
These are two good examples of how the humans can also join efforts and contribute effectively to the conservation of the islands unique and fascinating nature.