The Machalilla National Park park rangers have just completed their fourth year of humpback whale rescues, which are often found entangled in fishing gear. So far, park rangers have saved 13 whales; including four rescues this year alone.
This week marked the beginning of a fresh start for Casquita, an Olive Ridley sea turtle in Ecuador. Accompanied by children from the local community, Casquita triumphantly made her way back to the sea after recovering from injuries inflicted by a boat propeller and malnutrition.
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.
An Ecuador court sentenced a Galapagos resident to three years in prison, earlier this month, for the illegal trafficking of sea cucumbers.
This particular conviction is a victory for the local community and authorities as it serves as an important deterrent for those considering carrying out illegal fishing and trafficking of protected species. Historically, the legal system tended to be more lenient towards local perpetrators; however, this verdict goes a long way in showing that wildlife laws are applied equally to all, regardless of origin.
After two days of deliberation, the Seventh Tribunal in Guayas unanimously sentenced a Galapagos resident to three years in prison for trafficking 3,712 sea cucumbers (181 lbs). The sea cucumbers were discovered January 2016 during a routine search by Galapagos National Park and National Police officers at the Baltra island airport. The trafficker had attempted to smuggle the sea cucumbers inside three cartons, where fish were used to hide the dried and salted sea cucumbers.
Many countries employ different tools to combat IUU, including setting catch limits and quotas for fisheries, providing bycatch reduction gear, zoning their marine areas, satellite monitoring and enforcement.
Recently, the United Nations made a historic first step in combatting IUU through the ratification of the Port State Measures Agreement. Originally signed in 2009 by the FAO, the Port State Measures Agreement required a minimum of 25 countries to ratify the agreement for it to take effect.
We are so grateful to everyone who donated for our World Oceans Day challenge! WildAid raised a total of $100,000 to support our marine program in Ecuador and endangered sea turtles thanks to a generous matching gift! All proceeds will support marine protection in Ecuador and its endangered marine species.
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.
This week, WildAid and CLS coordinated a peer exchange between Galapagos park rangers and members of the Peruvian Coast Guard to share their experiences in using electronic technology for surveillance of marine areas.
In this peer exchange the Peruvian Coastguard will demonstrate how their control center combines data using those same two systems (AIS and VMS) to monitor suspicious activity within their waters. This collaboration may also aid environmental officials from both countries in better protecting shared migratory species, such as giant mantas, sharks, humpback whales, and sea turtles.