Category: Galapagos.

Too soon to say Galapagos out of danger: critics Islands still face threats from tourism, invasive species and overfishing

Land iguanas rest on rocks at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island. Photograph by: Guillermo Granja, Reuters

A body that gives conservation advice to UNESCO criticized the removal of the Galapagos islands from the UN agency’s list of endangered world heritage sites, calling it hasty.

“The removal of this unique site of global importance to humanity is somewhat premature,” said Julia Marton-Lefevre, head of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“Threats from tourism, invasive species and overfishing are still factors and the situation in the Galapagos remains critical,” added Tim Badman, who heads the IUCN’s World Heritage Program.

The IUCN gives official advice to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which in a meeting in Brasilia last month decided to strike Galapagos from its endangered sites list, on which it was entered in 2007.

The move, made at Brazil’s request, was meant to reflect the progress the Ecuadoran government has made in protecting its archipelago, which was made famous by evolution theorist Charles Darwin who studied its fauna in 1835.

The committee voted 14 to five to remove the islands from the list, with one abstention, according to the Brazilian culture ministry that presided over the meeting.

Badman said while “we recognize the major efforts of the Ecuadoran government to rectify the situation there … IUCN’s recommendation for the Galapagos was that it should not be removed from the Danger List as there is work still to be done.”

Located 1,000 kilometres west of Ecuador’s coast, the Galapagos archipelago of 19 islands and more than 100 islets and rocky outcrops has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978 for the rich plant and animal life found both on its land and in the surrounding sea.

In 2007, the organization declared the island chain’s environment endangered because of the increase of tourism and the introduction of invasive species.

About 10,000 people, mostly involved in fishing, live on the volcanic archipelago, which rose from the Pacific seabed 10 million years ago and became famous when Darwin visited to conduct research.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s List of World Heritage in Danger includes 31 cultural or natural sites around the globe at imminent risk of degradation or destruction.

Category: Galapagos
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