Troubled Waters in the Galápagos

Vandalized research station
Research station after recent vandalization.

A new epidemic has evolved on the remote Galápagos Islands. Fishermen are using violence to protest catch limits, and the Ecuadorian government is increasing quotas. This destructive trend threatens the Islands' unique animal life and its main industry, tourism.

The Galápagos archipelago, about 600 miles off Ecuador, has been an Academy research focus since 1905. With 95 percent of its native flora and fauna still intact, the Islands represent an outdoor laboratory for scientists. Now this natural treasure is under relentless attack. Spiny lobster fishermen have vandalized research facilities on the Islands, including the Charles Darwin Research Station, an international hub for evolutionary biologists. On Isabela Island, research facilities were burned, and the personal home of a Park Service employee destroyed.

The upheaval was in response to a 30-ton increase in the lobster quota, which the fisheries industry views as grossly insufficient. The lucrative industry had exceeded its limit of 50 tons in only half the fishing season and now demands to continue harvesting until the season ends December 31, regardless of the number of lobsters taken.

Graffiti:  "Long live the fisherman"
"Long live the fisherman".

The international scientific community sees this as a test case for world conservation. Arrests have been made, but the government, local citizens groups, biologists, and students must now persuade fishermen that their own livelihoods, not just the entire ecosystem, are at stake.

Notice about shark finning
A notice about shark finning.

map of galapagos islands
The archipelago is a little world within itself....[where] both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact, that mystery of mysteries, the first appearance of new beings on this Earth. -Charles Darwin