WildAid was one of only five winning applicants, out of 311 total, to win the UNDP Equator Prize for our work with the Women’s Association Pescado Azul, in the island of Isabela, Galápagos.
Pescado Azul provides jobs for unemployed women and sustainable economic alternatives for fishermen. Traditionally, the fishermen have relied on declining coastal sea cucumber, lobster, and shark populations for their livelihood. The association provides an alternative by creating a market for yellowfin tuna, a migratory species, which is processed, smoked and sold to tourists.
Editor's note: Bo Derek is an actress who starred in the movie "10." Most recently, she starred in the series "Fashion House." She is also an activist working extensively to raise awareness of the costs of wildlife trafficking. She submitted this commentary to CNN's Larry King Live.
When I first visited the Galapagos Islands Marine Reserve, I expected to see an untouched paradise. While it is still beautiful to the naked eye, behind the scenes, all is not well. While there, I learned that the famous sharks of the Galapagos were under siege for their fins.
A link to the original article on the New York Times, can be found here.
Unnoticed and unappreciated for five decades, a large female turtle with a stained, leathery shell is now a precious commodity in this city's decaying zoo. She is fed a special diet of raw meat. Her small pool has been encased with bulletproof glass. A surveillance camera monitors her movements. A guard is posted at night.
The Galapagos Islands are a place of unsurpassed beauty and home to an abundance of wildlife. In addition to spectacular vistas, there are over 3,000 species of marine plants and wildlife. Visitors to the area may encounter sea lions at play, slow moving tortoises, iguanas, and sea turtles and other native creatures - all living without fear of predators. But the ecosystems are extremely fragile, and the boost in tourism has become a threat to the unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos.
On February, 7th, 2008, the Environmental Police in clandestine collaboration with WildAid seized 126 kilos of sea cucumbers valued at $18,900 in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. The operation which began in Galapagos took over one month to develop and resulted in the arresting of three individuals: Henry Villamar Ortega (42), Jose Macias Cuenca (28) and Jose Solarzano Vera (32). Sea cucumber populations have been overexploited in recent years and there is currently a moratorium on the harvesting of sea cucumbers.
Two new successful raids against marine species brokers took place in Puerto Ayora, in the Galapagos. The first one was February 22 which found 554 lbs of dried sea cucumber and allowed the capture of one person while the second one took place February 23 and found 180 lbs of dried sea cucumber. One person was arrested within the second raid.
Every year in the Galapagos Island, poachers illegally kill thousands of sharks, a practice that has brought sharks in the region to the edge of extinction. Elf Island, the virtual world that empowers kids to make a difference in the real world through online game play, this week announced its second GoodQuest,Ô challenging kids around the world to help protect these endangered animals through a partnership with WildAid, a non-profit working to stop the illegal "fining" of sharks in the Galapagos.
Edgar Muñoz, GNPS Park Director, Fernando Ortiz and Oswaldo Rosero, local representatives of the conservation organizations Conservation International and WildAid, respectively, recently met to review advances of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) project for the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).
Currently, the project is in its final phase and over the next four months, we will procure and install the equipment and software required for the operation of the control center located at the GNPS Headquarters.
Newly installed satellite-based vessel monitoring system (VMS) has proved its worth already by leading to the arrest of illegal fishermen. The state-of-the-art system was financed and installed on May 20th,2009 by WildAid, Conservation International, the Walton Family Foundation, and Resorts World at Sentosa in cooperation with the Galapagos National Park Service and represents the culmination of three years of work.