Explained: The high seas, EEZs and the Galapagos Marine Reserve

📚 High Seas, EEZs and the Marine Reserve

With SO many acronyms, it can be hard to keep up!

Read more to learn about the different ocean areas and who can fish where 🎣

➡️ High Seas

  • High seas are open territory far from any shoreline or national jurisdiction, making them hard to monitor. Every country, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships flying its flag on the high seas. 
  • There is no comprehensive policy or management framework to govern the high seas. Existing laws are patchy and largely based on 17th century principles of open access.

➡️ Exclusive Economic Zone
(English = EEZ; Spanish = ZEE)

  • An EEZ is a zone in the ocean in which the adjacent nation has jurisdiction. Ecuador has two EEZs – continental (adjacent to the continent’s borders) and insular (extending from the Galapagos Islands.
  • A strip of high seas exists between these two EEZs

⏩ Galapagos Marine Reserve
(English = GMR; Spanish = RMG) 

  • The GMR comprises the entire marine area that extends 40 nautical miles from the defined baselines, or edges, of the archipelago. This baseline is measured from the outermost points of the archipelago. It sits within the larger insular EEZ of Ecuador
  • The GMR is a Marine Protected Area, or MPA. It is a mixed-use protected area with spaces dedicated to commercial fishing, tourism, and conservation. Legal fishing in the marine reserve is limited to local fishermen who were affiliated with a legally constituted fishing cooperative.

➡️ 🎣 Who can fish where?

  • In the marine reserve, only permitted local fishermen are allowed to fish.
  • In the EEZ, Ecuadorian fishermen are allowed to fish, along with other fishing vessels who are issued permits by the Ecuadorian government.
  • Outside the EEZ on the high seas, any fishing vessel is allowed to operate. 

📚 Did you know?

  • The foreign fleet that returns annually is located on the outskirts of the Ecuadorian insular EEZ.
  • Vessels from this fleet and other lone vessels have been known to fish illegally within the marine reserve.
  • Expanding the marine reserve will not have an impact on where the majority of the foreign fleet operates

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021


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