Ecuador expands marine protected area around Galapagos

Sea Lions in the Galapagos Reserve

By Alexandra Valencia

SANTA CRUZ, Ecuador (Reuters) – Ecuador on Friday created a new marine reserve around its pristine Galapagos Islands, whose rich biodiversity inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, as it seeks to expand protections for endangered migratory species. .

Expanding the reserve by 60,000 square kilometers is the first step in a plan agreed by Ecuador with its close neighbors Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow last year to create a common corridor through which species threatened by climate change and industrial fisheries can migrate.

The current Galápagos marine reserve, one of the largest in the world, measures about 138,000 square kilometers, and the new conservation area will have 198,000 square kilometers protected.

“Today we are declaring a marine reserve with an area of ​​60,000 square kilometers, equivalent to an area three times the size of Belize,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said after signing the new reserve aboard the research vessel Sierra Negra docked in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, the tourist center of the Galapagos.

During the UN Climate Summit, Lasso said he hoped the reserve expansion plan would obtain funding through a conservation debt swap. However, on Friday, Lasso did not reveal any funding details.

Environmentalists say the reserve will help protect at least five critically endangered species — including hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, turtles and other species that migrate between the Galapagos and Cocos Island in Costa Rica.

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