United Nations pronounces on Galapagos conservation

UNESCO's intergovernmental World Heritage Committee reviewed the state of conservation of the Galapagos islands at its meeting in Istanbul recently (the meeting was suspended for a day in response to the coup attempt there...).  Below is an extract of the report and final decision.  

I find it quite tame, particularly in regards to the very rapid growth in land based tourism (over 8% year on year in recent years), which is a vector for the introduction and dispersal of alien species - the single most important threat to Galapagos animals and plants.  

The full report and decision can be consulted, starting on page 88 of this document:  http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2016/whc16-40com-7BAdd-en.pdf

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The information provided by the State Party addresses most concerns defined in previous World Heritage decisions.Biosecurity risks are directly related to the extensive increase of traffic, tourism and the resident population.

While further progress in the planning of the new port in Guayaquil, FEIG supported projects to eradicate alien invasive species and refined standards guiding transportation are welcomed, alien invasive species remain a threat to the property and biosecurity management and control continue to require consolidation.

Annual visitor numbers have been exceeding 200,000 since 2013, compared to around only 40,000 in the early 1990s, and the State Party reports 215,691 visitors in 2014 and 113,613 visitors in only the first semester of 2015. Such rapid growth in a fragile island setting raises concerns that are further exacerbated by the limited enforcement of the existing regulatory framework. The recently developed

regulations on hotel development, including through the 2015 Special Law, are noted with some concern; their efficiency will need to be closely evaluated. A clear tourism strategy for Galapagos with a focus on establishing mechanisms to discourage rapid and uncontrolled growth in visitation, which was identified by the Committee as a pending issue when it decided to remove the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 34th session, is still lacking. Development of such a strategy was one of the key requests made by the Committee already in Decision 34 COM 7A.15, adopted in 2010.

The complex institutional landscape and limited funding continue to compromise effective and coordinated efforts to address both biosecurity and tourism. There is also concern that the new Special Law may further complicate the relationships between all institutions and stakeholders involved. Concerns with regards to the new Law were also raised in a civil society petition which was submitted to UNESCO in August 2015.

Progress in addressing solid waste management is welcomed. It is essential that those efforts are further consolidated, along with parallel efforts to improve the management of sewage on land and sea. It should be noted that the previously identified issues of population growth and illegal fishing continue to be a concern, which are not touched upon in the State Party report. It is recommended that the State Party provides confirmation and details of the recent rezoning of the marine part of the property announced in March 2016, in view of evaluating the impacts on threats from illegal fishing raised in previous Committee decisions.

Consistent with previous analyses, recommendations and Committee decisions, it is essential that the capacity and resources of institutions involved in the management of the property, as well as coordination among them, is further consolidated to ensure the broad scale of the multiple challenges is addressed in a comprehensive manner and secures the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value  (OUV) of the property as a whole. Six years after the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, which the Committee had explicitly associated with concrete expectations in terms of addressing the many challenges, several of those challenges still remain unresolved, including the development of a clear tourism strategy, as outlined above.

Other issues, such as biosecurity, require further consolidated efforts. While the progress achieved by the State Party should be welcomed, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to continue its efforts in order to fully address all pending issues, particularly biosecurity risks and tourism growth. It is further recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite, before its 42nd session, an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess whether all remaining issues noted by the World Heritage Committee at the time when the property was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger have been addressed.

Final Decision: 40 COM 7B.74

The World Heritage Committee,

 ….

4.Notes the progress achieved by the State Party in addressing solid waste management and requests the State Party to continue its efforts to establish an effective system of solid waste management and to also improve the management of sewage on land and sea;

5. Also requests the State Party to provide further information regarding the recent rezoning of the marine part of the property announced in March 2016, in view of evaluating the impacts on threats from illegal fishing raised in previous Committee decisions;

6. Expresses its concern that comprehensive and effective management responses, in particular as regards the fundamental and related challenges of biosecurity and tourism, continue to require further strengthening of current efforts and urges the State Party to fully implement the requests made by the Committee when it decided to remove the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 34th session, including:

a) Development and implementation of a clear tourism strategy for Galapagos, with a focus on establishing mechanisms to discourage rapid and uncontrolled growth in visitation,

b) Completion of the biosecurity chain of inspection and control by establishing the dedicated cargo facilities at a single Guayaquil cargo loading dock and by considering Baltra as the only authorized point of entry to the islands to receive cargo from the continent;

7. Further requests the State Party to invite, before its 42nd session in 2018, an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the progress achieved in addressing these pending issues;

8. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

| |
news