Illegal Fishing | March 24th, 2008

An illegal stash of more than 5,000 sea cucumbers of the species Stichopus horrens, was seized in the Galapagos Islands immediately after the Galapagos National Park Service confiscated another 10, 318 units of this protected species. Sea cucumbers are coveted by the Asian market as they are said to have aphrodisiacal properties. The archipelago, which is home to many animal and plant species found nowhere else on the planet, has a history of problems with illegal fishing of species such as sea cucumbers and lobsters. Overfishing has disrupted the natural balance of the marine ecosystems and, along with other reasons, prompted UNESCO to put the Galapagos on the World Heritage at Risk list.
On the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos, 20 fishermen have recently left their nets to become visitor guides and showcase their talent in artisanal fishing demonstrations. Others have decided to become snorkel or dive guides, giving up their highly lucrative but environmentally costly profession for more eco-friendly alternatives. Although many fishermen bring in snapper, tuna and lobster, the over-fishing of sea cucumbers for the Asian market has created an imbalance in the ecosystem that has many worried about the loss of the natural capital of the archipelago. Fishermen are naturally enthusiastic about the ocean’s resources and converting their expertise into tourism dollars will help conserve the marine biodiversity that makes the Galapagos so special.
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has expressed his hope to remove Galapagos off the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list within a year and a half. “We hope that within a year and a half we can take Galapagos out of risk and the situation that we find it in now. That is to say that we will declare Galapagos heritage out of risk,” he stated.

On the 26th of June 2007, UNESCO put

the Galapagos Islands on the list in response to the environmental degradation caused by growing tourism, immigration and the introduction of invasive species.