The Galapagos Marine Sanctuary announced on March 21st, 2016 by Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa will be a safe haven for the many sharks species and other marine animals in Galapagos. Ecuador now joins the list of nations that have expanded protection of their precious marine resources.
The biggest part of the new Galapagos marine sanctuary, some 15,000 square miles, includes the portion of the Galápagos Marine Reserve around the northern Galápagos islands of Darwin and Wolf. There are also 21 smaller conservation areas scattered through the archipelago that makes up the rest of the 18,000 square miles Marine Sanctuary.
A marine reserve is an area often within a designated marine protected are with strict Category I protection according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) A marine ‘sanctuary’, on the other hand, is a wide area assigned as a refuge from hunting.
Category I protected areas are strictly set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use, and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure the protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as essential reference areas for scientific research and monitoring read more
Explore the underwater world of the Galapagos marine sanctuary
The Galápagos Islands have long been a bucket list destination for scuba divers, especially for those who are looking for a liveaboard dive trip of a lifetime to the northern islands Darwin and Wolf.
Darwin and Wolf are remote islands at the far north of the archipelago over 450 miles from the central islands and are only accessible via a liveaboard dive trip or a science expedition.
Pelayo Salinas de León, a marine scientist at the Charles Darwin Foundation, has been quoted as saying that Darwin and Wolf form “probably one of the most spectacular and significant marine ecosystems that we have on the planet.”
No resorts, no airports just 7 to 10-day long liveaboard trips. Stopping at dive sites along the way to Wolf and Darwin you will be rewarded with some of the most diverse diving conditions in the world. Four converging ocean currents bring conditions that only exist in this area.
The jewel of these long trips are without any doubt the two northern islands. Here you will find only a few dive sites, but the main attraction here is the marine life. You will probably see more marine life on your dives here (like schools of hundreds of hammerheads) than anywhere else in the world.
Is diving in Galapagos on your bucketlist? Download the essential scuba divers guide to Galapagos full with valuable tips and information you need to plan an amazing dive trip.
Dive with hundreds of hammerheads and other marine life in Galapagos
The Charles Darwin Research Station in part sponsored by the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund completed a research project late 2015 that found that the area around the Wolf and Darwin islands had a fish biomass averaging 17.5 tons per hectare.
That’s about twice as high as the second largest area known to science, the nearby Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica. Portions of the Great Barrier Reef have a biomass of only 1.7 tons.
Can you imagine ten times more fish biomass at the remote Islands of Wolf And Darwin in Galapagos compared to the Great Barrier Reef? While these numbers are good news for the northern Galápagos islands, they also show a decline in biomass primarily in shark species.
In 2015, discussions started to expand the protection of the Galápagos Marine Reserve into a sanctuary. The findings of the research project influenced the early adoption of the proposed plans. While the Galápagos Marine Reserve had restrictions on fishing in the past, the legal fishing and illegal fishing was showing an impact on the marine populations.
These new rules mean that fishing is not allowed nor is it allowed to remove any resources from the marine sanctuary. This change also rules out and mining or oil operations which means the area is now restricted to scientific and tourism vessels only.
As divers and lovers of the ocean, we applaud the actions of the Ecuadorian government. We also extend our deepest gratitude to the researchers and volunteers of the Charles Darwin Research Station and similar organizations in their dedication to the environment and the future of life on earth.
Would you like to dive into the new Galapagos Marine Sanctuary? Contact us today, we have multiple partners on Galapagos who offer dive packages + accommodation.
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.