Legendary diver and explorer Jacques Cousteau once described Mexico’s Sea of Cortez (or the Gulf of California) as "the aquarium of the world," home to a tremendous array of marine life. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than the Midriff Islands, an uninhabited archipelago located in the Sea of Cortez’s central region that has a nickname of its own: "the Galapagos of the Northern Hemisphere.” Whales, whale sharks, sea lions, jumping mobula rays and five species of endangered sea turtles can all be found in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sadly, the Midriff Islands’ abundant reefs and thriving marine habitat attract illegal and unsustainable fishing practices, which threaten their continued protection.
Last month, hundreds of female sea turtles left the safety of the sea to lay thousands of eggs along Ecuador's coast. Park rangers in the Pacoche marine protected area (MPA) have begun patrolling miles of beaches to identify, protect and tag nests with educational materials to prevent predation.
Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. That’s why WildAid has teamed up with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency on a four-month campaign to protect these unique islands from invasive species.
The campaign kicked off earlier this month with a Spanish-language PSA starring Ecuadorian actress and TV personality Érika Vélez, one of several new WildAid ambassadors from Latin America. Joining Miss Vélez on the campaign is the Ecuadorian TV personality and actor Efraín Ruales, the former Miss Ecuador and model Alejandra Argudo, and Henry Bayas, guitarist for the Galapagos band Sin Residencia.
Filmed on several different islands, these new PSAs feature stunning footage of the archipelago’s array of species: sea lions frolicking in the waves, seabirds swooping across the sky and marine iguanas sunning on the rocks.
Delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have taken the significant step of voting to protect two manta ray and five shark species at the 16th Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, Thailand this past week. Sharks have been heavily targeted for their fins and mantas for their gills, despite the species’ proven value to ocean ecosystem health and to global ecotourism.
WildAid’s campaign to reduce use of shark fin is making a huge impact in Asia by decreasing the demand for and the import-export business of shark fin. According to the South China Morning Post, the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong reported that shark fin imports have reduced from 10,292 tons to 3,087 tons from 2011 to November 2012; over a 70% decline.
Recently protected as a migratory species under Australian law, international communities are picking up momentum to stem the rapid decline of giant manta rays, whose global numbers have dropped by 30%.
The Government of Costa Rica declared zero tolerance to shark finning, in a ceremony held this morning at Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos. There, with the presence of environmentalists, the President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla, signed an executive order. Under this order, imports of shark fins into the country will be banned. Shark finning practices were already forbidden in the Costa Rica territory and waters.
This week, Richard Branson and former Costa Rica president, José María Figueres Olsen, urged Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla Miranda, in an open letter, to sign a Presidential Decree prohibiting the importation of all shark fins into Costa Rica.
WildAid and Cotecna Certificadora Services hosted a four-day course earlier this month for officials from Agrocalidad, the Galapagos National Park, the Galapagos Government Council, and Charles Darwin Foundation. The training course focused on improving participants’ knowledge about international maritime regulations and practices related to the inspection of boats, containers, and cargo for the protection of human and environmental safety.