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The Galapagos Islands create a new marine sanctuary to protect sharks

A new marine reserve the size of Belgium has been created in Ecuador to protect the Galapagos Islands, threatened by illegal fishing and oil drilling.

A new marine reserve aimed to protect the precious biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. This is the latest decision made by Ecuador to safeguard the extraordinary wildlife populating the archipelago’s waters.

 

97 per cent of the Galapagos Islands had been already protected, being a World Heritage Site of UNESCO due to their importance in Darwin’s theory of evolution. However, only 1 per cent of the water around the islands is fully protected. Therefore, the sanctuary will include 21 other protected areas, which will grant the safeguard of 47,000 square kilometres of ocean. The marine reserve will also include the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf, and will protect 1,000 kilometres of coast for a total surface the size of Belgium. By doing so, 32 per cent of the Galapagos Islands’ waters will finally be protected.

 

The Galapagos Islands’ marine areas have recently faced significant threats, including illegal fishing and searches for oil. Ecuadorean government’s new decision will avoid the archipelago’s water to be at risk again.

According to National Geographic, fish biomass is extraordinary: 17.5 tonnes per hectare, i.e. about twice as high as the second highest area known to science, the nearby Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica.

 

The Galapagos Islands boasts the highest abundance of sharks known in the world, being home to 34 species of sharks, including the world’s largest ones.

 

The creation of the marine sanctuary not only will represent a safeguard for Ecuador’s environmental heritage, but also a precious economic resource. According to data released by the University of California, the life of each shark is worth 5.4 million dollars for the tourism industry, while a dead shark is worth up to only 200 dollars for fishermen. The project has been realised also thanks to the National Geographic Foundation, which cooperated with local organisations and fishermen. The new marine reserve is thus a winning solution for the government, fishermen, and the environment.

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