Conservation Community Calls for Expanding the Galapagos and Cocos Marine Reserves

10 Sep 2021
Emily Heber

Island Conservation, Mission Blue, Turtle Island Restoration Network, along with more than 10,000 scientists and 150 organizations compel the presidents of Ecuador and Costa Rica to expand the countries marine reserves, in an open letter published in the New York Times.

The Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador and Cocos Island, Costa Rica are protected World Heritage Sites, known for their remarkable island and marine biodiversity. The islands are convergence points for cold and warm currents that support an array of migratory wildlife, including threatened sharks and sea turtles that travel nearly 75,000 miles along the underwater mountain chain that connects the islands, forming the Galapagos Cocos Swimway. Despite the protections within the boundaries of existing marine reserves, species are left vulnerable to industrial fishing for much of this journey. Conservationists, communities, and local governments are hoping to change all that—pursuing cooperative agreements to expand protections across the Swimway.

Non-profit organizations including Island Conservation and Mission Blue, are working with community organizers in the Galapagos as part of the Mas Galapagos collective to consolidate the scientific and legal reasoning to expand the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Since its creation, the Galapagos Marine Reserve has been crucial for the survival of many marine species, but the current level of protection is insufficient for many wide-ranging and migratory animals, especially in the face of modern conservation challenges, including climate change, overfishing, and illegal fishing.

A pair of waved albatross live on the Galapagos Island’s Espanola Island, Ecuador, South America. Credit: Island Conservation/Eleanor Briccetti

Expansion of the reserve would safeguard habitats, feeding areas, and breeding grounds of at least 30 highly threatened marine species in the Galapagos, including Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, Whale Sharks, Waved Albatross, and Leatherbacks Sea Turtles. Additionally, these measures ensure the sustainability of marine resources in the region, guaranteeing economic benefits for the fishing industry and long-term food security for the people of Galapagos and mainland Ecuador

By and large, the Galapagos community is committed to expanding the reserve with more than 70% supporting the initiative to protect essential natural resources and foster the eco-tourism economy. In pursuit of stakeholder engagement, Mas Galapagos has brought Ecuador’s industrial fisheries to the table to find areas of common ground. Today, Island Conservation joined more than 150 organizations in a letter published in the New York Times, compelling the Presidents of Ecuador and Costa Rica to come together and develop a plan for expanding the Galapagos and Cocos marine reserves.

Featured Image: Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks near Cocos Island. Credit: John Voo

Read the original coverage from Island Conservation at

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


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