Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. That’s why together with the Galapagos Conservancy, WildAid helped the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency (ABG) form a specialized canine unit to protect these unique islands from invasive species.
In 2016, we selected and trained two dogs and three handlers, as well as constructed the necessary infrastructure (kennels and offices) for the unit. The canine unit will provide a versatile and low cost method of detecting illegal substances to prevent their entry into the Galapagos archipelago.
Park rangers in Ecuador risk their lives every day to protect marine areas from illegal fishing and destruction of critical habitat. Together with Conservation International, WWF, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and the Galapagos National Park Service, WildAid hosted a maritime operations training for park rangers from 17 Ecuadorian marine protected areas, ministry of environment officials, fishery officers and other marine practitioners last month to ensure the rangers have the right knowledge to handle any situation that comes their way. Rangers often venture unarmed at night in the face of danger including armed illegal fishers and pirates, to protect Ecuador’s marine environment and endangered species. According to one of the Machalilla park rangers, even a simple task like retrieving a fishing net from the water comes fraught with risk.
The U.S. will now increase traceability of seafood imports from high risk countries to ensure compliance with national and international fishing regulations. This legislation will complement regulations enacted last fall to ensure international compliance with American fishing standards for protecting marine mammals. Together, these regulations ensure that foreign fishers wishing to import their products into the U.S.—one of the largest seafood importers in the world—take measures to curtail illegal fishing in their waters.
WildAid is pleased to announce a new partnership with Angermeyer Cruises/ Andando Tours to protect the Galapagos marine environment, allowing visitors to be part of the solution to the Archipelago’s growing problems.
WildAid and Angermeyer Cruises/ Andando Tours have teamed up to create the Galapagos Conservation Fund to help stop some of the greatest threats to the Galapagos Islands: illegal fishing and the threat of invasive species. In a bold demonstration of commitment, Angermeyer Cruises has renamed their 173-foot luxury yacht to “WildAid’s Passion for Galapagos” and will make a $100 donation to the fund for every passenger that books a cruise on M/Y WildAid’s Passion. Besides encouraging guests to contribute, Angermeyer Cruises will also donate all proceeds from a one-week charter to the fund annually.
We developed an enforcement plan for Santa Elena that focuses on conservation priorities of the area. As per the plan, Santa Elena park wardens carry out both preventive and control measures to protect the reserve’s marine wildlife.
Illegal fishing continues to pressure Ecuador’s numerous protected areas and fisheries. Funding for conservation efforts on mainland Ecuador is minimal, and due to recent earthquakes, protected area managers have even fewer resources to carry out patrols that protect their marine spaces. WildAid’s work in Ecuador is more important than ever to prevent exploitation of its unique marine life as we celebrate World Oceans Day.
Machalilla National Park along coastal Ecuador is one of the world’s most important sites for manta aggregation as it is home to the largest population of Giant Manta Rays (Manta birostris), estimated at 1,500 individuals. It’s also home to five species of sea turtles, 20 species of whales and dolphins, hammerhead and whale sharks, and countless species of fish and coral reefs.
Listed by the IUCN as “Vulnerable,” the primary threat to manta species is unsustainable fishing. As manta rays have few natural predators, their recent decline is due in large part to direct human predation, driven by the growing demand for their gills or death as bycatch. Compounding matters, mantas are among the slowest to reproduce of all sharks and rays, usually birthing one or two offspring every few years. Their low reproduction rates mean that mantas cannot sustain or survive commercial fishing for long.
In 2004, photographer Bryant Austin floated on the surface of the South Pacific observing a humpback whale and her calf. The five-week old, two-ton calf left his mother and glided within five feet of Austin, close enough that he put down his camera. The calf gracefully swam around him, giving the photographer his first close encounter with a whale.
From his book Beautiful Whale, Austin says, “For the first time, I could see the true colors, fine details, and subtle tones of the humpback whale; all of the elements that make them real. I never would have dared to swim this close to a whale. I wouldn’t even have imagined the prospect of photographing a whale that approached me within five feet on his own terms.”
Thus, this young whale and his mother inspired a seven-year journey to capture life-size images of whales and encourage people to protect them from human threats before they become extinct.