Galapagos News

Park nabs commercial shark poachers

Fer Mary I shark catch

(story adapted from Sea Shepherd Society news item)

One of the biggest shark poaching arrests in the history of the Galapagos National Park recently took place. The national park rangers and an Ecuadorian naval ship apprehended the industrial longline fishing vessel from Manta, Ecuador and 30 or so fishermen. At the time of capture, the vessel was fishing 20 nautical miles within the designated area of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, southeast of Genovesa Island.

Upon inspection by the park service, it became clear that the vessel was using longlines to commercially fish for sharks, all of which are illegal in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Furthermore, it turned out that this vessel had been involved in a mass slaughter of sharks. The vessel's holds were filled with sharks, 357 in total. The confirmed death list included: 286 thresher sharks, 22 blue sharks, 40 Galapagos sharks, 6 hammerhead sharks; 2 tiger sharks, and 1 mako shark.

The Galapagos National Park Service has started an administrative process against the vessel, its owner, and crew. Simultaneously, the new environmental prosecutor for Galapagos has started a penal procedure in order to get maximum penalties for the people involved in this serious environmental crime.

Sea Shepherd Galapagos will monitor this case closely when it goes to court. The impact on the fragile Galapagos ecosystem is devastating and a message needs to be sent that such highly illegal activities will also come with severe consequences.

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) Sea Shepherd Galapagos is implementing will further improve vessel monitoring capabilities for the park service, making illegal fishing ever more difficult inside the protected waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

Sea Shepherd has been working in close cooperation with the Galapagos National Park since the year 2000, and the Ecuadorian National Police since 2007.

 

CNH Tours has had the privilege of sharing dinner with Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepher Society, when he was in Galapagos a few years ago.   He's quite a character!

Galapagos #1 on list of 100 top travel destinations

(adapted from the original International Galapagos Tour Operators Association news item here)

The special August/September issue of Britain's well-respected Wanderlust Magazine names the Galapagos Islands the number one destination in the world in its 'Top 100 Travel Experiences' cover story. To compile the list, the magazine invited its readers to submit their own top ten travel experiences and thousands heeded the call. Once the dust had settled and the tabulating was complete, the Galapagos Islands emerged as the readers' number one favorite. Anyone who has had the good fortune to visit the Galapagos knows the honor is well-deserved.

As the Galapagos Islands continue to attract great press coverage, it's only natural that more and more people want to discover its wonders for themselves. But as the Galapagos grows in popularity, it's more important than ever that travelers and travel providers carefully consider their impact on this fragile ecosystem. To this end, IGTOA encourages travelers to do their research and choose a Galapagos travel provider that is serious about operating in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, one that is doing its part to help preserve and protect these magical islands for the enjoyment of future generations.

 

CNH Tours has been an Associate member of IGTOA since 2003 and fully endorses its objectives.

Inter-island ferry runs out of gas, passengers stranded

(from http://latinamericacurrentevents.com/)

July 12th, 2011

According to Dirnea.org the Ecuadorian Coast Guard rescued a yacht, Y/P Albany with 24 tourists aboard, including 4 children, last  week (July 8th), between tow ilsands in the Galapagos. The National Maritime Authorities announced that foreigners from the United States, France, Germany, and citizens of Ecuador were passengers of the yacht. Officials say the yacht ran out of fuel 8 nautical miles off land and was drifting in the ocean. All passengers were uninjured and brought to Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos. The Coast Guard says that the owner of the yacht miscalculated the amount of fuel necessary for its travel and that fuel was provided to the yacht at the time of rescue. Also, the Coast Guard adds that the yacht was over capacity in terms of the number of passengers.  It reports also that the owner of the boat will be fined.

 

CNH Tours adds:

This is one of those ferries that transports people between islands.   Clearly, more can be done to ensure that maximum capacity is respected.   We recommend you email the Galapagos Chamber of Tourism to ask that they pressure the authorities to ensure this does not happen again.  You can reach them here:  infocptg@capturgal.org.ec

 

Albany Ferry

Report on Impact of March tsunami on Galapagos wildlife

(adapted from http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/780)

 

UNESCO's World Heritage Center reported yesterday on the impacts of the Japanese tsunami on Galapagos wildlife.   It stated(text adapted):

Eighteen hours after the March 11 tsunami wreaked devastation in Japan, it hit the Galápagos Islands.  Luckily, by then the energy of the waves had dissipated somewhat, and the people there had received advanced warning and took to higher ground. The waves hit later in the afternoon, local time, and caused significant damage only to some buildings located near the water's edge. The Charles Darwin Research Station's (CDRS) marine biology lab and its equipment were largely destroyed. The lab is critical in carrying out the marine monitoring work that feeds into the Galápagos National Park's management work.

Soon after the disaster, the CDRS received a grant from UNESCO to help it re-establish its marine monitoring capability, and also to carry out a rapid assessment of the impacts of the tsunami on Galápagos wildlife, which contribute a great deal to this site's international fame.

Their preliminary report has just been received.  It indicates that impacts varied significantly between areas.  It notes that the height and penetration of the wave at the coast was very specific to different localities within and between islands, with varying impacts upon the flora and fauna.  Several beach areas were extensively reconfigured, while others showed large scale sediment shifts offshore, probably limited by upper littoral vegetation roots (including those of mangroves) stabilizing the sediment.

Important flightless cormorant nesting sites on Fernandina island, the most undisturbed large island in Galápagos, showed evidence of the destruction of existing nests, but the scientists also noted that adults had largely survived and had recommenced nesting and egg laying. Occasional mortalities were evident (sea turtles and marine iguanas) at the upper limits of the wave. Other sites, such a small but critically important mangrove area (home to the very rare nesting mangrove finches) were apparently not negatively affected.  Marine turtle and iguana nesting was affected depending upon wave height, beach profile and nesting behavior.

The CDRS reports that it was currently following up lines of investigation to examine the dynamic of the wave as it propagated throughout the archipelago with their associates in the Ecuadorian Navy compiling information for Park and Disaster mitigation planning agencies.

Garbage/Rubbish Recycling Established on Floreana Island

(News release from the Charles Darwin Foundation)

 

Solid Waste Recycling Stations on Floreana Island

2011-06-29

 

Last June 8, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Galápagos-Ecuador Foundation and the Floreana Island Parish Government launched the "Strengthening of the Solid Waste Management System" campaign.

During the launch event, attended by local authorities, special guests and the community at large, technologist Max Freire, President of the Parish Government, made a formal presentation of the analysis of island waste management that was conducted last year and on which the campaign is based. The program also included unveiling of a logo, slogan and mascot that will be part of the awareness-raising activities to be carried out on the island.

Cristina Georgii, CDF Education for Sustainable Development Coordinator, took the floor to emphasize the importance of community participation in the solid waste management process. She explained: "Our commitment is to the all-round restoration of Floreana with community participation, by providing tools to build local capacity in order to enhance the quality of life of the islanders." In conclusion, she expressed her appreciation to the Floreana Parish Government and Galápagos-Ecuador Foundation for their joint efforts.

In turn, Galápagos-Ecuador Foundation representative Veronica Santamaría explained to the community the importance of the six new recycling stations, whose primary function is to get the community and visitors to the island to cooperate in solid waste management.

Shortly before the end of the event, the community enjoyed two puppet shows, "The Three Finches" and "Lucy, the Recycler," that were produced and acted by the young students of the Amazonas School.

In the next few months, various activities are planned with the main theme of proper garbage disposal and recycling with the participation of the community.

 

CNH TOURS ADDS:

Floreana Island is the least populated in Galapagos, with about 100 people living there.   Waste is even an issue in such small places, and every effort to manage it / reduce it is welcome.   This is an example of the work of the Charles Darwin Foundation - it's not all research!

Entrance Fee to Rise, Special Law for Galapagos under Revision

The government of Ecuador recognizes that Galapagos is a place like no other.  And for this reason, in 1998, it passed the "Special Law for Galapagos" (SLG), which sets out the conditions under which various activities can take place in the islands, and establishes various administrative structures to deal with issues there. For instance, it's in the SLG that the $100 park entrance fee, and its use, was fixed.

In 2008, after a constituent assembly approved a new constitution for Ecuador, some of the structures set up in the original SLG were found to be in conflict with the new constitution.  For instance, prior to the new constitution, Galapagos had the status of a Province in Ecuador (similar to a State in the USA).   The new constitution has withdrawn full provincial status for Galapagos, based on its very small population compared to that of other provinces.  The new constitution creates a governing council for Galapagos, composed mostly of a few ministers (Environment, Planning, and Tourism) and of local mayors.

The most immediate effect on the average tourist would be a proposed increase in the park entrance fee.   The current fee is $100 for people over 11 years of age, and $50 for those under 12.

The new fee will be a function of the length of stay in the islands.  A basic $120 fee will apply, to which an "environmental impact" supplement will be added.  The Environmental Impact supplement will be an additional $120 (total $240) for those staying no more than 3 nights, $30 (total $150) for people staying from 4 to 6 nights, or more than 16 nights, and $8 (total $128) for people staying from 7 to 15 nights.   To sum up:

NEW FEWS PROPOSED FOR 2012-2013 (adults):

A.   Staying 0-3 nights:   $240

B.   Staying 4-6 nights, or more than 16 nights:  $150

C.   Staying 7-15 nights:  $128

 

The basic $120 fee is subject to change every 2 years.  Children under 12 will pay 50%.

Over the next several days, the government will be holding public consultation sessions in Galapagos to collect comments and opinions on the proposed revision, and to clarify any misunderstandings.

CNH Tours supports responsible travel, and effective management in Galapagos.   The Park Entrance fee will continue to represent a relatively small percentage of the overall cost of a Galapagos vacation. Having lived and worked for conservation in Galapagos for 4 years, CNH Tours has seen how the funds raised by the park entrance fee are put to good use in dealing not only with tourism management, but also in supporting park conservation work, marine reserve management, the control of harmful introduced species, and other useful work.

The overwhelming majority of visitors to Galapagos spend between 7 and 15 nights in the islands.  The $28 increase for this category is the first since 1998, and was warranted.    The average price of a cruise, and of hotels, has increased easily by 75, if not 100% since 1998, whereas this is the first price increase for the park entrance fee.

CNH Tours also notes that the SLG contains many other elements very critical to the long term conservation of Galapagos, including a focus on biosecurity - to keep alien species out, tourism management and others.  It even contains measures to keep Ecuadorian citizens from the continent from freely moving to Galapagos, in an effort to limit population growth there.  These are extraordinary measures requiring a level of political will that is commendable.

Power outages in San Cristobal

The main diesel electrical power plan at San Cristobal Island broke down yesterday, due to damage caused by an unplanned outage.  This has led to a reduction in its generating capacity to a maximum of 1,500 kilowatts while island-wide demand is at about 1,800 kilowatts.

Elecgalapagos, the electrical utilities company, has been forced to make energy rationing in several areas of the island. 

Mr. José Moscoso, the CEO for Elecgalapagos, said that arrangements are being made to repair the failed generator as soon as possible.  Spare parts were to be imported from the continent to do so.  He called on the public to reduce electricity consumption so as to reduce the need for rationing of electricity.   This situation is expected to last for a few days while spare parts are flown in and the generator repaired.

Visitors to San Cristobal island in the next few days may end up "in the dark".

Sea cucumber fishery to open June 15-August 15

Galapagos, May 11, 2011 (translated from the press release of the Participatory Management Board).

This afternoon and evening, at an extraordinary meeting of Participatory Management Board (PMB) of the Galapagos Marine Reserve on Santa Cruz, consensus was achieved in regards to the opening up of the sea cucumber fishery in the Marine Reserve.  The decision was based on population monitoring results performed by technicians of the National Parks Service and of the Charles Darwin Foundation, with the help of fishermen from the various fishing cooperatives in the archipelago. (CNH TOURS:  The sea cucumber fishery has been closed due to insufficient stocks, since 2008)

This monitoring showed that there is a population density of 12 sea cucumbers per 100 square meters, which is above the minimum density of 11 per 100 square meters permissible to consider the opening of this fishery, as stipulated in the Fisheries Management Plan for the Galapagos Marine Reserve, developed and approved in 2009.   

Based on this report and considering the needs of the artisanal fisheries sector of the archipelago, the PMB set a quota of 1 million individuals for the extraction of sea cucumber for this season, which starts June 15 for a period of 60 days .

The Bolivar channel, which separates Fernandina and Isabela islands will remain closed to the fishery, as has been the case previously.  This zone is considered as an important breeding ground for sea cucumbers.

PS: Sea cucumbers are considered a delicacy in many asian markets.

CNH Tours notes that it took many years of hard and frustrating work to reach this point in the management of the sea cucumber fishery in Galapagos.  From the early 1990s to the mid-2000s (CNH the sea cucumber gold rush drew in fishermen from the continent intent on vacuuming up as many of these ground dwelling starfish related animals as possible.  At up to $1 per individual, a fisherman could make a few thousand dollars within several weeks.    It was clear that the practice was unsustainable, and by the early 2000s, the effort required to harvest enough sea cucumbers was so great that the fishery nearly closed down for lack of economic interest.    It now seems that management has led to a small come-back.    Previously, annual catches were in the 5 million individual range.

The battle to manage this fishery was hard fought, and led to several disruptions to tourism operations, as fishermen, angry at efforts to impose quotas, would blockade roads and visitor site access points.    It seems that this period is now a part of Galapagos history - let's hope!

Visitors to the islands between June 15 and August 15 may note several small fishing boats near the shoreline around the archipelago.  These will likely be sea cucumber fishermen - the animal is usually harvested by hand, by scuba divers.

Picture:  Measure the size of a sea cucumber - minimum length, fresh, must be respected.  Courtesy of Galapagos Conservancy. sea cucumber

Galapagos airport to be re-built

The government of Ecuador has recently authorized the construction of a US$23 million airport on Baltra island, the main airport serving Galapagos bound travelers.

This airport has been in the planning stages for a few years.  It will replace the existing infrastructure, which is currently too small to handle the increasing numbers of travelers.  Though CNH Tours recognizes the need to upgrade the existing airport - we will be sorry to see it go.   The current airport is a testament to simple building design, making ample use of natural air flow to keep people cool, rugged in appearance - fitting well with its natural surroundings.

The new version has been dubbed an "environmental airport" by the authorities.  CNH Tours has been hard pressed to find actual technical details justifying this monker.   The best we could find came from an April 15th press release from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Transport and Public Works, which said:

The environmental aspect of the airport relates to its infrastructure and operating procedures - these will be subject to environmental standards. The track will be constructed of concrete, the passenger terminal will have natural lighting and ventilation…. The airport is expected to operate during the hours, reducing the need for artificial lighting.  Renewable energy systems will be incorporated into the design.  These will include photovoltaic panels, to provide 25% of building energy demand and 12% of the total demand of the airport.

Though a new airport will undoubtedly better serve the travelling public, and we are glad to see that it should be using the same principles as the existing building, CNH Tours finds it a bit far-fetched to call it an "environmental" airport without further justification.   We have also learned through ourcontacts at the Galapagos National Park Service that the landing strip will be outfitted with a "mini-fence" to keep out land iguanas, which have made increasing use of the hot pavement as a sunning area - resulting in occasional tragedy for the iguanas!

Construction, when it begins (apparently fairly soon) is expected to last up to 18 months.   During this time, it is likely that more use of the other airport in Galapagos, at San Cristobal island, will occur.   Ship owners and operators in Galapagos are used to these kinds of things and will no doubt be well prepared to handle any logistical changes necessary.

Baltra was first used as an airport during World War Two, when the US military, under an agreement with the government of Ecuador, established a base there from which to defend approaches to the Panama Canal from possible Japanese attack.

Baltra airport

Eric runs aground - nobody hurt.

From Ecoventura, owners and operators of the Eric:

"In our ongoing effort to keep our tour operators informed and up-to-date on all news concerning Ecoventura and our operations in the Galapagos we want to inform you of an incident that occurred early this morning (April 27) involving our yacht the MY Eric.  After 14 weeks in dry dock, and two days into the first cruise, the ERIC ran around while en route to Puerto Egas, Santiago Island.  After 20 years in operation, this was the first accident ever to occur to the ERIC or any yacht operated by Ecoventura.  Our president and operations management team have arrived in Galapagos to survey the extent of damage sustained.  All passengers and crew on board were safely evacuated and no injuries were reported.  We expect the Eric will be out of operation for the next 3-4 weeks for repairs and will notify guests traveling on these future cruise departures of alternatives available.  We will keep you informed as soon as more details are available.   It is our intention to provide the most timely and accurate information possible and we do thank you in advance for your support & understanding."

CNH Tours received an update a few hours later:

"The Eric has been refloated or rather pulled from the rocks and will be towed to Baltra.  It is expected to arrive shortly in Puerto Ayora.  Once there, the ship will be assessed to determine whether it can sail to
Guayaquil or needs to be taken by ferry.

CNH Tours recommends to those booked on the Eric (or its sister ships, the Letty and Flamingo) over the next few weeks to get in touch with their agents to confirm the status of their cruise.

(photo courtesy Galapagos National Park Service).

Eric Grounded

CNH Tours Tips off National Park Service over Illegal commercial “tourism overflights”

CNH Tours learned late last week, while looking for information for clients, that the EMETEBE airline company, which provides service between the three main towns in Galapagos, was offering "touristic overflights of Galapagos" on its website.  Knowing full well that such overflights were strictly regulated in Galapagos, to ensure that wildlife was as least disturbed as possible by human activities, CNH Tours informed one of our former colleagues, now a senior manager at the National Park Service.   Today, we learned that the Park was taken by surprise over this illegal activity, and will be undertaking the necessary measures to ensure that this practice is halted.   Aerial tourism in Galapagos is not authorized.

CNH Tours commends the National Park Service for its swift action.

 

Below - typical EMETEBE plane (they have 2 in operation like this).

Emetebe

Alternative energy in Galapagos – the only solution to reducing the risk of diesel spills?

Every year, about about 5 million litres (1.3M US gallons) of diesel are shipped 1000km from the mainland to generate electricity in the Galapagos island (this doesn't include the diesel to power ships and vehicles).  This is a risk not only for a potential oil spill disaster in the islands, but also for chronic pollution arising from minor spills and leakage.   It is in the interests of everyone, both residents and visitors alike, to encourage the reduction of diesel imports to the islands.

This can be done in 2 ways:

1)       Finding alternative energy sources, and

2)       Using less energy.

Having lived in Galapagos for 4 years, and having visited frequently in  the past few years, CNH Tours notes that a great deal of effort is invested in option 1- finding alternative sources of energy.   For instance, three multi-million dollar wind powered generators (largely donated) were installed on San Cristobal Island and  have been in operation since 2008, producing up to 31% of electrical generation needs on that island (when the wind is blowing of course!).

Now, Floreana island, the smallest inhabited island with about 200 inhabitants is about to double its solar electrical generation plant, further reducing its reliance on diesel powered generation.  This is happening with the support of a $200,000 grant from World Wildlife Fund.   Not bad news.

While CNH Tours is happy to see efforts made at finding alternative sources of energy, we feel that the conservation side of the equation is insufficiently addressed.    In particular, a much cheaper public information campaign, accompanied by minimum building code standards, would help reduce electrical energy needs by significant amounts.    Given the millions donated to Galapagos to install "media friendly" alternative energy sources in Galapagos, hardly anything is done on the less glamorous conservation side of things.   Yet much can be done.

Galapagos can be very hot, and air conditioning is likely a major draw on electrical energy.   Yet, wandering through town, one can't help noticing that more and more people rely on AC, yet windows might be open, or badly installed, there is no insulation on roofs, slipshod construction standards result in houses that are far from being air tight (coming from wintry climates, we know how important that is!), doors are left open - it's a common sight.

CNH Tours encourages donors and local governmental authorities to invest more effort in conservation.   CNH Tours would like to see just 10% of the funds spent on expensive alternative energy projects invested on efforts to reduce electricity consumption - and we are ready to bet that on a dollar for dollar basis, conservation work would get a much bigger bang for your buck than alternative energy projects.

Price Increase on Flights to Galapagos

TAME (Transportes Aereos Militares del Ecuador - Ecuadorian Military Air Transport), one of the main commercial airlines to Galapagos, announced yesterday a hike in ticket costs to Galapagos, effective …. 1 week ago!   Prices will go up by about 10%.   A regular round trip ticket to Galapagos from Quito will now cost US$463, as opposed to the previous $425.   Prices are a bit less for travel from Guayaquil (US$ 438) and a bit less still for travel during the low season (May 1st to June 14th / September 15th to October 31st).   It is likely, though CNH Tours cannot confirm at this point, that the other airlines flying to Galapagos (LAN, Aerogal) will apply the same fare increases.

Nobody likes a price increase, but to be honest, the previous prices had hardly changed in the past 10 years.

Galapagos green turtle found on Costa Rican beach

From the Tico Times (www.ticotimes.net) 31 March 2011

Green TurtleResearchers from Widecast Costa Rica discovered a mature female Eastern Pacific Green turtle which had been tagged in the Galapagos Islands during their collection study Thursday in the Gulfo Dulce in the Osa Peninsula. Blood and tissue samples were taken from the turtle and then the sea creature was released.

"This is very exciting for us," said Didiher Chacón who is president of Widecast Costa Rica, a sea turtle conservation organization. "We have been capturing turtles on and average of every two hours of time on the water and discovered what we think is a major feeding ground in the Golfo Dulce for Green Turtle populations.

It is rare for a Green Turtle to nest in the GolfoDulce area. Turtles that come to Costa Rica nest at beaches in Santa Rosa National Park, Nombre de Jesus and Punta Pargos in Guanacaste. Widecast researchers now believe the turtles come from as far as Galapagos, off the coast of Ecuador, to feed in the gulf.

Blood samples from the turtles in the area will give a Widecast a better idea of the health of the Golfo Dulce. Pesticide, sewage and sediment levels detected in the samples will determine the possible negative effect of palm and rice farms in the area.

 

CNH Tours is pleased to see results from efforts made at tagging turtles in Galapagos.  Between Costa Rica and Galapagos (1,200 km, or 750 miles) there are a series of undewater "sea mounts" which have long been suspective of guiding, somehow, the movement of sea animals, including hammerhead sharks and billfish.  This kind of research demonstrates how it's important for the conservation of Galapagos marine life, to be closely coordinating efforts with Costa Rica, among other countries.

CNH Tours friend featured in major science magazine

From the Charles Darwin Foundaiton (CDF) Research Station

CDF Restoration Group Coordinator, Dr. Mark Gardener, is featured in the March 18 edition of Science magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The article by Gaia Vince entitled "Embracing Invasives," describes a recent paradigm shift in which conservationists are beginning to value and manage highly-disturbed ecosystems as biodiversity strongholds.

Although not all members of the conservation community are convinced by the new trajectory, the paradigm shift has been gaining traction worldwide over the last five years.  Regarded as "novel" or "hybrid" ecosystems, that is systems that are mixtures of exotic and native species, Gardener has come to the conclusion that: "It's time to embrace the aliens," rather than continue to invest millions of dollars in schemes that for decades have proven largely incapable of removing introduced flora and fauna from protected areas in order to return them to a "pristine state."

With introduced species a fact of life in nearly every corner of the planet as a result of globalization, proponents of novel ecosystems are bringing science to bear on questions such as the role these systems may play in sustaining threatened biodiversity, particularly in areas where certain endemics may be brought back from the brink of extinction due to pollination or erosion control provided by the new taxa.

However, "Galapagos remains one of the most pristine ecosystems left on our planet," with some uninhabited islands in a near original state and entirely protected.  These islands obviously will have different management objectives from the inhabited islands which have been highly modified, especially in the humid highlands.   In these modified systems, Gardener seeks to find ways to optimize management such that biodiversity and ecosystem services are maximized and intervention is minimized.  As he notes in the article, "with 30,000 people now living in the Galapagos, ecosystem planning must address human needs, such as providing timber...in addition to nurturing biodiversity."

A further challenge, says Gardener, is marrying biodiversity and human needs to meet future conditions such as climate change and continuing human development through food cultivation and recharging groundwater.mark gardener


CNH Tours has known Mark Gardener since 1999, when he first set foot in the Galapagos islands.   A dedicated scientist and good friend, we're very pleased to see his work so well highlighted in this prestigious scientific publication.

Miss Ecuador 2011 named honorary park ranger

Miss Ecuador 2011, Claudia Schiess Fretz, was honored yesterday as Honorary Galapagos Park Ranger, in a small ceremony at the premises of the institution in Puerto Ayora.

Edwin Naula, the Galapagos National Park Director, presented the medal and gave her a scroll which states that the declaration corresponds to the recognition of the deep affection for Galapagos Claudia has demonstrated in the past.  Claudia will now become a spokeswoman for the Park.

During the event Claudia Schiess provided some emotional words of thanks noting that, "It's an honor to receive this designation to be Ranger, because it is also a dream that one wants to achieve - one of my most important goals is to work in education because there is no conservation without education."Miss Ecuador

Park Service fights illegal hotel construction in Puerto Ayora

The developers had obtained a building permit for a residential construction from the municipal government.  Developers Mauricio Ponce and Antonio Noboa Cartwight Ycaza then began construction of a building in Punta Estrada, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island.  The picture below (courtesy Galapagos National Park Service) clearly shows that this is not a house - illustrating the brazen disregard developers have come to have for local regulations (and the municipality's incapacity to monitor how well builders are respecting their building permits!)

The developers later presented the findings of a feasibility study for the construction of a 26 room hotel to the Ministry of Environment, for its approval, hoping that with such an approval, bureaucratic processes would get muddled allowing them to proceed.    The Galapagos National Park Service learned of this inconsistency, and immediately ordered a halt to the construction of the hotel, as it did not comply with current legal regulations, which require that an appropriate building permit be obtained for different construction projects.    
The Park Service has asked the Municipal Government of Puerto Ayora to implement the necessary measures ensuring that the developers and their project go through the same approval process that applies to all other people.

CNH Tours is pleased to see the Park Service actively involved in ensuring that development in Galapagos does not continue in a chaotic fashion.   Land based tourism has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, but in an environment of poor regulation / planning.   As a result, hotels have been built even in park lands, and towns risk turning into chaotic, unattractive places.   CNH Tours has generally favoured more of a cruise ship focus for Galapagos visits, thus reducing the development pressures for hotels, restaurants etc. on land.

 

Illegal hotel

Over 173,000 visitors in 2010

The Galapagos National Park recently reported that 173,296 people entered the Galapagos Islands as tourists in 2010 - a 6% increase over 2009.

Of these 36% (61,574) were Ecuadorians, 27% ​​(46,093) from the USA, 5% (9045) from the United Kingdome and the others were from 140 other countries.   Other major origins include Canada, Germany and Italy.  

Of these visitors, 46% (79,716) enjoyed a cruise and 44% (76,250) used hotel services, and 7% stayed with family and friends.    A small number of tourists did not specify their type of accommodations. 

All this information is collected through the Transit Control Card (TCC) that a visitor must fill out when departing the continent for Galapagos (at a cost of $10).

CNH Tours has calculated that if all cruise ships operated at 100% capacity, running 7 night cruises and not spending any time in dry dock (ships usually spend a few weeks each year undergoing maintenance), the maximum number of visitors they could accommodate would be about 90,000 in one year.   But because most ships run 3 and 4 night cruises, the actual total turnaround is likely closer to 125,000.   The 2010 numbers likely indicate an occupation rate for cruise ships of about 70%.

 

Flying Galapagos Penguins Captured on Video!

Galapagos may be a living laboratory for evolutionary process, but no one, not even Charles Darwin himself, could have foreseen that Galapagos penguins could so easily take to the air.

But CNH Tours has to come clean here.....  we're sorry to disappoint you.   This isn't actually a case of spontaneous evolutionary adaptation to changing environments… but rather an unusual way to transport a penguin.

A video clip of a Galapagos penguin on board a commercial aircraft, being moved from San Francisco to San Diego aquarium, was recently posted.    Apparently, its caretaker was given permission to take it on-board and to let it roam around the cabin.   Someone captured the scene on video and posted it on Youtube.    To see the video, click here.

 

 

Charles Darwin Research Station Marine lab damaged - donate now.

(CDRS News bulletin)

In the aftermath of the tidal surges induced by the March 11th Japan earthquake and tsunami, a team of more than 20 staff and volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder to clear debris, retrieve equipment and clean laboratories, offices and storage buildings at the Marine Sciences complex of the Galapagos-based Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.

The powerful surf hit Santa Cruz with waves up to 1.77m /5.8 feet above normal according to data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), one of the highest readings in the Eastern Pacific.  The waves also coincided with the local high tide, sending the first wall of water into the CDF installation at approximately 18:00.  Two subsequent waves at intervals of 26 minutes raised the water level 1.50m/4.9 feet above the upper CDF Marine Lab dock.  "The waves," stated Dr. Volker Koch, CDF Director of Marine Sciences, "completely destroyed a concrete pump house, broke through heavy wooden doors, flooded laboratories, workshops and storage facilities, and carried off furniture and equipment," despite advance emergency preparation.  CDF Senior Scientist Stuart Banks observed that: "Equipment ranging from dive tanks, small boats, wooden furniture, freezers and field supplies was widely scattered.  We found items in the ground floor laboratory, buried in sand and vegetation, driven 50 meters [165 feet] up the entrance trail and dispersed across a 200 meter [650 foot] radius around the mangrove-lined shore."

The first wave arrived 20 minutes after the ETA of 17:40 predicted for Baltra Island to the north of Santa Cruz.  The receding wave lowered the water level in Academy Bay from full tide by more than one meter/3 feet within 12 minutes.  The sea then rose rapidly to cover the CDF dock. The second ebb was stronger than the first and subsequent waves continued into the night, gradually reducing their amplitude into mid-morning of the following day.

No injuries were sustained and no other areas of the CDF Research Station were significantly damaged.  Staff are in the process of damage assessment and will calculate overall losses in the coming days.

The CDRS will have to scramble to find necessary funds to bring this important facility back to operational standards.   This lab is the nerve centre for a great deal of important research on wildlife in Galapagos.

For more information on the CDRS's great marine conservation work, see their website here.

For donations, please go to the CDRS Donations page here.

 

PICTURE:  Marine biology lab's equipment, furniture is taken outside to dry. Photo:  Mary Witoshynsky

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