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Galapagos National Park Dive Permit Impacts


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#21 danclem

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 04:09 PM

We just returned (July 9) from a week of diving, followed by a week cruise/land excursion through the Galapagos. Just a few observations.

First, I think that Ecuador had done an amazing conservation job in the Galapagos. This is not a rich country, and they have accomplished a great deal. Bashing them is both counter-productive and inaccurate. It would be quite easy to have really lax regulations and turn the area into a "cash cow" similar to what has been done in other parts of the world.

I would suggest withholding judgement on what is going on until the dust settles a bit. It is a drag when a trip is cancelled, but I don't think all the information is out. On our trip we heard about new regulations coming into effect and existing regulations being enforced: the question was when.

Second, for the diving portion of our trip we were land based in Puerto Ayoro and dove with Scuba Iguana. With the major exceptions of Darwin and Wolf, it is quite easy and accessable to dive the remainder of the islands. There is also a wonderful new hotel in town, which makes staying in Puerto Ayoro much nicer.

Third, there were several open slots each day on the Scuba Iguana boats. My guess is that this is true for other land based operators with proper permits and may be something for those whose live aboard trips have been cancelled to check out.

Fourth, the Galapagos are an extremely unique area, and while I very much enjoy the diving, the flora and fauna on land are equally amazing. I feel really badly for visitors who miss the land sites.

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#22 scubamarli

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 04:17 PM

Thought this response to a friend's letter would be of interest to those concerned/booked on trips:

We regret this situation, but basically it is the National Park's decision after their legal analisis. However, we are doing our best (the Minister of Tourism is involved directly) in talking with the Ministry of Environment who is the ministry that runs national parks, to pass a moratorium for the best interest in all of who have paid their trips, and to the operators to legalize their operations. We believe this can pass this week, maximum next week and we would have this problem solved.

Best regards,
Lcdo. Patricio Tamaríz
Director Ejecutivo - Fondo Mixto de Promoción Turística del Ecuador


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#23 pakman

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 08:50 PM

thanks for all the updates folks... My Aggressor trip isn't until Oct 2008, so I got a lot of time for this all to settle down. But I feel for those who had their dream trip abruptly cancelled...

Edited by pakman, 18 July 2007 - 08:50 PM.

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#24 rivominer

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 05:32 PM

I've been hearing various rumors about the Galapagos situation for weeks, but this is the most thorough discussion I've seen. Wish I'd come on it last week.

Fortunately for me, I had my Galapagos dive trip back in May, before all this started. I dove with Aggressor, so wouldn't have been affected anyway. But some good friends are booked next week on Deep Blue and they are still waiting for definitive answers from the LDS they booked through. I will direct them to this thread, which at least indicates some hope that other companies are recognizing their responsibilities to their customers and canceling trips, which would imply at least partial refunds.

As long as I have the floor, I want to put in my two cents about what I think is happening here.

1) Ecuador, and the GNP in particular, got dinged with the threatened status being applied to GNP as a World Heritage site.

2) Needing to take some action, and having the apparent support of President Correa from his statements back in April, GNP decided to enforce permitting regulations that apparently have been honored more in the breach for years. Certainly they knew what permits the boats had and what they were actually doing, but obviously they had winked at them all this time.

3) The dive permit enforcement is window dressing that does nothing to address the real issues that threaten the Galapagos. The fact is the liveaboard dive boats and their customers have the least impact of any of the tourists on the Galapagos environment. Their activities support few jobs, so they don't encourage enormous numbers of people to move to Puerto Ayora to work in the restaurants, hotels and other industries there. The divers are relatively small in number, so they have less impact on the land tours.

4) If GNP were serious about protecting habitats and creatures on the islands, they would be placing severe quotas on the cruise ships and land based tours that create hundreds of jobs on the islands, attracting more and more people from the mainland. Those people bring goats, cats, dogs, pigs and other animals that get loose, breed and further endanger the native wildlife. They also bring the need for more fresh water, paved roads, vehicles, sewage systems, etc., all of which have an impact on air and water quality, shoreline erosion, etc.

5) GNP is not really serious about protecting or restoring the Galapagos environment, but rather protecting the tourism-based economy that will destroy the most precious aspects of the Galapagos environment. It's an old story, of course; economies always seem to win out over environmental needs. This is just another example. The course they've taken will affect the smallest possible number of jobs, so it won't cause much of a stir among the people of Ecuador.

Having said all that, I also realize that it is even more difficult for a developing nation like Ecuador to provide the economic development opportunities its people need. Our divemaster told us that he blames NGOs for the continuing poaching and shark finning that takes place in GNP. His reasoning was that total bans as advocated by many US and European NGOs simply make the products more valuable, which attracts more people to the trade. If they're impoverished, poaching looks like easy money, well worth the risk of getting caught. These activities keep lots of people employed, so they continue in spite of the bans. What is needed, and is not being provided, are alternatives, job training, including training in and perhaps some subsidizing of sustainable fishing methods.

It's a complicated business, and the more complicated something is, the more likely bureaucrats and politicians will look for the easiest, short-term solution, which often means catering to the most powerful special interests. It would be nice to see them take the long view, work with all parties concerned and find real solutions for the real problems that exist and will exist in the Galapagos.

Meanwhile, if you want to make your own feelings known, you might try:

Luis Benigno Gallegos Chiriboga
Ambassador
Embassy of Ecuador
2535 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Phone: (202) 234-7166
Fax: (202) 234-3497
Email: cecuwashington@mmrree.gov.ec
http://pub2.bravenet...orum/154676232/

The URL at the end is a public forum on the Web site of the Ecuadoran embassy. Posting some of these thoughts there might be a way to get their attention, too.

Good luck.

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#25 mrbubbles

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 07:11 PM

I just read that the president of equador has reversed the ban on shark finning.Having been to galapagos three times, My heart is broke.

#26 loftus

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 03:05 AM

If this is true, then this should be brought to the attention of all tourists to Ecuador / Galapagos.
The theory that the fishing interests are behind all this makes more and more sense.
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#27 writepic

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 05:09 AM

mr bubbles, where did you read that?
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#28 mrocks

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 08:28 AM

mr bubbles, where did you read that?


it is in yahoo news at least

http://news.yahoo.co...NRDWSJ3aJm3IxIF

#29 mrbubbles

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 11:47 AM

yes thats where I read it

#30 writepic

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 01:02 PM

it's so difficult to see what's going in here. it seems that correa is trying to be all things to all people, judging by this news item on the seashepherd pages, there have been moves to protect galapagos waters.

http://www.seashephe...a_070712_2.html

i'm making a doc on shark fishing on coastal ecuador right now, and know very well that the amount of fins sold every day on the coast is a LOT, even with the ban in place. we suspect that coastal waters are used by galapagos populations to breed, as pretty much only juveniles or pregnant females are seen coming out of the pangas.

however, i really don't see how lifting the ban is going to help. does anyone see this logic?

there is a deal in place currently to develop the port of manta on the coast, to be the biggest export port in latin america. that deal was signed and sealed last year. the prime movers are chinese or japanese i can't remember. maybe this has something to do with it. maybe ecuador will become the new export port for shark fins for the whole of latin america?? if that happens then we have all the reason to worry.

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#31 chadbeck

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 02:53 PM

This doesn't sound so good.....
"Galapagos Conservancy
July 19, 2007
An Important Update on Diving In the Galapagos Islands

On Tuesday, July 10, 2007, the director of the Galapagos National Park (GNP) began the first in a series of stringent enforcement efforts by suspending dive trips operated by tour companies not in possession of the appropriate permits. The Galapagos National Park is enforcing current legislation which requires that tour operators have a specific diving permit to run dive charters inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) and Park. Previously, many operators have carried out dive tourism with only a land tour permit.

This decision will affect only those yachts which do not have the appropriate permits and is effective immediately. It is anticipated that by the middle of 2008, several activities in the GMR – including diving – will have their regulatory language and procedures established. Until that time, the GNP is required by law to control and sanction boats that do not follow regulations. Tour operators and agencies are only able to sell tour packages for authorized activities.
It is recommended that those visitors who have planned a dive trip to Galapagos contact their tour operators for the latest information. Other information can be obtained directly from the Galapagos National Park offices: Raquel Molina, Director: director@spng.org.ec and Edwin Naula, Head of Public Use: enaula@spng.org.ec.

#32 danclem

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 05:41 PM

Hi:

I tried to see what I could find about the President's actions, and the quote below is from an Ecuadorian blog. Less those of us from the US think about taking the moral high ground, there is also reference to much concern about a US company dumping chemicals south of the Galapagos. The thought is to increase plankton blooms as part of a carbon credit scheme.

[/indent]Gobierno da 'luz verde' a la pesca accidental de tiburón en el Ecuador
El presidente, Rafael Correa, derogó el decreto 2130 que prohíbe la pesca y la comercialización de aletas de tiburón en el país. Las organizaciones ecologistas se oponen y demandan la anulación.

[/indent]La pesca del tiburón vuelve a las aguas ecuatorianas. Con la firma del decreto del presidente de la República, Rafael Correa, los pescadores artesanales podrán comercializar carne y aletas de tiburón siempre y cuando sea producto de una captura accidental.

Correa anunció en Manta la vigencia del nuevo decreto ejecutivo, que derogó al 2130, expedido por el ex presidente, Lucio Gutiérrez y que prohibía cualquier tipo de pesca de tiburón en el Ecuador.

Según el Gobierno el nuevo marco legal beneficiará a alrededor de 200.000 familias que viven de la pesca artesanal en la provincia de Manabí y que son generadoras de 170 millones de dólares al año.

“Quienes durante el ejercicio de la actividad pesquera capturen tiburones, como producto único y exclusivo de la pesca incidental, podrán comercializar y utilizar íntegramente su carne, así como también se permitirá el almacenamiento, transporte y exportación de aletas de tiburón provenientes de la pesca incidental, realizada por embarcaciones registradas por la Subsecretaría de Recursos Pesqueros y las capitanías de puerto”, dice parte de decreto promulgado por Correa.

Para los pescadores de Manabí, con este decreto el Presidente está cumpliendo su ofrecimiento de campaña de permitir la pesca y dinamizar la economía de este sector que atraviesa una crisis económica, producto de la gran explotación de empresas privadas.

Correa aseguró que el Gobierno se está recuperando el “valor de la palabra porque está cumpliendo con la derogatoria de un absurdo decreto que, con la buena intención, trata de proteger a los tiburones, pero con absurdas medidas. El remedio es más caro que la enfermedad, tratando como delincuentes a quienes viven de la pesca artesanal”, ratificó durante el recorrido en Manta.

Ante esta realidad las organizaciones ambientales mostraron su desacuerdo porque con esta medida el Gobierno está fomentando abiertamente la pesca de tiburón en el país, especie que está en peligro en extinción en el mundo.

“Esta no es más que una sucia artimaña. Permitir la pesca incidental de tiburones es fomentar la pesca indiscriminada, por lo tanto, el mercado de aletas de tiburón crecerá más; solo entre junio y julio se han incautado más de 20 000 aletas de tiburón en distintos operativos”, aseguró la fundación Sea Shepherd, que lucha por la preservación de la vida marina y de tiburones en Ecuador y otros países del mundo.

Según Michelle Castro, vocero de esa organización internacional, en el país la explotación de tiburones es indiscriminada, a pesar de que hasta antes del decreto era una actividad prohibida. “Usualmente las aletas son cortadas mientras los tiburones están vivos. Estos son capturados con palangre y subidos a la embarcación de pesca por medio de un gancho que es introducido en su cuerpo, luego su cuerpo es arrojado al mar. Esta matanza ha producido una disminución de un 80% de la población tiburones en el mundo, en los últimos 50 años”, aseguró.

[indent=1]Para la fundación Sea Shepherd actividades turísticas como el snorkeling y buceo con tiburones en Galápagos, por ejemplo, dejan más ingresos y beneficia a mucha más gente comparado con el negocio de la pesca que satisface la demanda asiática, que lucra a unos pocos y arrasa con los tesoros marinos del país.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fecha de Publicación: 2007-07-20 17:44
Por: Pablo Villacis
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#33 echeng

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Posted 21 July 2007 - 07:01 PM

There has been big fight going on in the background, conducted on the tourism side by operators, booking agents, and prospective divers. The issue has now reached the president of Ecuador. Ken Weemhoff, a friend and booking agent in Galapagos, just sent out this message:

Attached is an EXCELLENT letter written and sent to the various
governmental officials in Ecuador [see attached file -editor].
It is especially powerful from my
prospective because the person that wrote it is NOT a client of
Galapagos Adventures. This indicates that you people are forwarding the
information I am sending out to others and at least some of these other
people are responding. If you decide to join us in this protest, please
feel free to use this letter as a template for your letter and/or
forward it on to other concerned parties along with the email address I
sent earlier.

-------------

I have been informed by Ecuador that the awareness is now all the way up
to the presidency. The Minister of Tourism - who has been pushing for
a moratorium on the band on diving has finally gotten the Minister of
the Environment who is in charge of all national parks to agree to
this. They have produced a document that will be going to the
president of Ecuador tomorrow. If he signs it, it will be passed into
law and ALL dive operators that have dive trips scheduled will be
allowed to resume their operations immediately. Supposedly this
moratorium will last until at least the end of 2007 to give the national
park time to work on writing new regulation concerning diving in
Galapagos. As soon as I have confirmation that the president has
signed this document, I will let you know.

BTW - the calls to Embassies and Ecuadorian Consulate were by far the
most effect !!!!!

If you want to help, here's what you can do (copied from other e-mails):
It appears the hold out is Dr. Anita Alban Mora, the Minister of Environment. It's time for some pressure to go her way.

I could not get her direct email address but here are some e-mail addresses for the people that work directly with her:

pyanez@ambiente.gov.ec
anofa@ambiente.gov.ec
osarango@ambiente.gov.ec

Please copy your letter to the above listed email addresses.

The US Embassy in Quito does not post an email address but rather it is one of those boxes where you type your letter and hit the "send" button. You can send your letter to them by going to http://www.usembassy...sh/ContacEN.htm and cutting and pasting your letter into the box.
There is also a phone number on that page but it is an Ecuadorian number.

Embassy of Ecuador in the Netherlands:
María del Carmen González
Ambassade: ambassade@ambassadevanecuador.nl
Handelsafdeling: handelsafd@ambassadevanecuador.nl

consulate of Ecuador in the Netherlands:
consulaat@ambassadevanecuador.nl

-------------------

The crack is getting bigger but we are NOT there yet. TURN THE HEAT UP MORE !!!!!! If you have not sent your emails or made your call, please do so NOW.
A number of you that have forwarded me the SAME message you have recieved from Ecuador:

We regret this situation, but basically it is the National Park's decision after their legal analisis. However, we are doing our best (Minister of Tourism is involved directly) in talking with the Ministry of Environment who is the ministry that runs national parks, to pass a moratorium for the best interest in all of who have paid their trips, and to the operators to legalize their operations. We believe this can pass this week and we would have this problem solved.

Best regards,
Patricio Tamariz
Executive Director
Ecuador's Tourism Promotion Fund

Sorry folks. I gave the Americans on my distribution list the wrong number. The number in the previous email was for the Canadian Consul. I googled "US consul Ecuador" and found this site http://www.ecuador.org/main.htm

Embassy of Ecuador in Washington
Tel: (202) 234-7200
Fax: (202) 667-3482
Email: embassy@ecuador.org

Consulate of Ecuador in Washington
Tel: (202) 234-7166
Fax: (202) 265-9325
Email: consuladodc@ecuador.org

I also found this web site for a Consul office in Ecuador for US citizens in Guayaquil http://guayaquil.usconsulate.gov
They even have a US number toll free number so you can call them !! 1-800-919-5290 PLUS there is an email. Maybe besides giving them a call on their 800 number, you should forward those emails you already sent to Ecuador to this email as well - acsguayaquil@state.gov
Make sure to include a note stating you are an American and you are requesting help !

I'm working on getting the US ambassador to Ecuador's email and phone number in Quito. I'll mass it out as soon as I get it. Passengers who are not Americans - try to find the contact information for your country's ambassador to Ecuador. If you find it, pass it on to me and I'll blast it out to everyone on my distribution list. Tour operators - remember to pass ALL of these contacts on to your passengers and encourage them to TAKE ACTION.

-------------

Here are the email addresses of the government officials in Ecuador.

Raquel Molina Director on the GNP rmolina@spng.org.ec
Maria Isabel Salvado Ministry of Tourism ministra@turismo.gov.ec
Patricio Tamariz Fondo Mixto Promocion Turistic
ptamariz@turismo.gov.ec
Ministry of Outer Relations dgproeco@mmrree.gov.ec
Department of.Tourism - GNP enaula@spng.org.ec
Nubia Jaramillo - Coordinating of Marketing of TM
fmpt_marketing@turismo.gov.ec
Ministry of Galapagos Tourism lguerra@turismo.gov.ec

Keep in mind that the GNP has the RIGHT to close any activity at anytime
so this is not the issue. The issue is the way it is being handled. If
you are upset with the way they handled this situation, these are the
people to complain to.

Feel free to pass this information on to anyone else that is interested.

Attached Files


eric cheng
publisher/editor, wetpixel
www | journal | photos


#34 shawnh

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Posted 22 July 2007 - 07:28 PM

In a sad coincidence, the President of Ecuador just lifted the ban on sale of shark fins :) How is it dive boats full of conservation oriented divers are banned while shark finning boats are invited in? Perhaps everyone should include that in your letters to the Ecuador.

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http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=20016
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#35 loftus

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 02:41 AM

In a sad coincidence, the President of Ecuador just lifted the ban on sale of shark fins :) How is it dive boats full of conservation oriented divers are banned while shark finning boats are invited in? Perhaps everyone should include that in your letters to the Ecuador.

Read more here:
http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=20016

One other point not mentioned specifically in this thread, is the limitation of all dive excursions to a week or less. The effect of this will likely be to decrease the number of visitors to, and time spent at Darwin and Wolf. These two areas are where the highest concentration of fish and sharks still remain - the result, the fisherman can do their work, legal or illegal, with less interference.

Edited by loftus, 23 July 2007 - 02:44 AM.

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#36 chadbeck

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 05:19 AM

Looks like today they have a meeting with the boat owners to lift the ban on a temporary basis until they can figure out how best to handle the problem going forward. Hopefully people that still have trips this year will still be able to make it......

just saw this. looks like no wolf or darwin for awhile....

http://www.explorerv....tter072007.pdf

Edited by chadbeck, 23 July 2007 - 09:50 AM.


#37 Scubagirlz

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 01:31 AM

@ chadbeck: So Eco Explorer I is operating...? Thought only Agressors and Sky....

#38 DaveE

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 04:14 AM

@ chadbeck: So Eco Explorer I is operating...? Thought only Agressors and Sky....


Scubagirlz:
The info that i have from my tour operator is that ALL boats can operate in Galapagos for the time being, BUT only the Agressors and Sky Dancer can go to Wolf and Darwin.
They are the only boats with full approved licenses.
This matches with most of the info I have been able to find on the web.

The last update I have is:
"On the back of a meeting that was held in Ecuador yesterday (30/7/7), between all affected parties, there will be a further meeting held between lawyers, the Galapagos N.P. authorities the Ecuadorian Ministry of tourism on Thursday morning (Ecuador time)."

If I get an update on Friday I will post it here.

#39 danclem

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 07:01 AM

Hi:

I don't believe this is correct. Scuba Iguana runs seven day live aboard trips to Wolf and Darwin from Puerto Ayoro (http://www.scubaigua...urs.html#DARWIN), and I would imagine that the other operators there who have the proper license also run trips there.

It would be interesting to know how many outfits and divers are actually impacted, as there are quite a few operators with the correct permits. There were several vacancies on our trip the first part of July, and I heard that this is the case with other Puerto Ayoro based operators.

Cheers.
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#40 onderwaterfoto

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 02:45 AM

Hello,

I read all the articles with a lot of interest since my girlfriend and I booked a liveaboard trip to the Galapagos (Darwin and Wolf) from October 3rd till 15th aboard the Catamaran Lammerlaw.

My operator has no signs that this trip will be canceled.

Does anyone know more aboat this boat and its trips?