Sun, 05 Feb 2023

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, Ecuador: Ecuador's announcement that it will expand the marine reserve around the Galapagos islands by 60,000-square kilometers has been welcomed by conservationists, who hailed it as "a brilliant first step."

The announcement was made by President Guillermo Lasso at the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow.

In a statement to the BBC, Lasso said his government believes action, rather than words, is the most effective way to combat climate change.

The current Galapagos marine protection area, measuring 133,000-square kilometers, and was one of the first large-scale marine conservation areas to be created in the world.

Among the conservationists who praised the announcement was botanist Sarah Darwin, the great-great-granddaughter of biologist Charles Darwin and ambassador of the Galapagos Conservation Trust.

Darwin told the BBC she was "very, very excited that President Lasso is taking the Galapagos so seriously."

However, Sharon Johnson, CEO of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, said resources must be made available to adequately protect the newly enlarged reserve.

In 2020, Chinese fishing boats were spotted off the islands and were accused by conservationists of "pillaging" the area for squid. However, Lasso denied the expansion of the marine reserve was a response to the Chinese fleet's actions, stressing it was "an autonomous decision of the Ecuadorean government."

Meanwhile, Professor Sandy Tudhope and Dr. Meriwether Wilson from the University of Edinburgh said the Galapagos and its surrounding seas are a unique ecosystem home to whales, turtles and tuna, noting that because marine life is so abundant, it also makes the area attractive to fishermen.

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