Marine Park | October 14th, 2009

This has been a less successful story.  While the marine park has been created, the rules under which it operates are probably not strong enough to completely protect the biodiversity, and the ability to enforce even those rules insufficient.

But even here progress is being made.  Of particular note is the increase in the willingness and ability to tackle illegal fishing.  A few years ago the practice of inspecting all goods leaving the islands was initiated, resulting in many interceptions of illegal fish products.  The capacity to intercept boats at sea has also been built.

This increased capacity to enforce the park rules was demonstrated by the recent spate of successful enforcement operations, both against local fishermen and boats coming in from outside. 

In early July a boat was intercepted, and found to have illegally caught sharks, tuna and other large fish species.  In June a different vessel that had been allowed only “innocent passage” through the reserve was found fishing at night. 

On 25 June two local busts were made – one on Santa Cruz against a local who had been illegally shark finning, and another on Isabella against a local illegal lobster fishing operation. 

But as marine protection increases the quality of resources within the area, and over-fishing depletes resources outside, the temptation for fishermen to move across from the mainland will be high.

Even more worrying is a cycle of violent protests by local fishermen, demanding reductions in controls on fishing, being responded to by weak government responses and conciliatory management changes.  Even when fishermen assaulted the female head of the national park agency, there was no strong policy or military response.

A clear need for the next fifty years is to ensure that the marine environment gets as much respect and appreciation as the tortoises.