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Galapagos National Park Dive Permit Impacts


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#1 gregarius

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 09:57 AM

I'm booked on a Galapagos Adventures 10-day trip that starts on the 16th of July. This morning got an email from Ken from Galapagos Adventrues saying, "Yesterday the Galapagos National
Park suspended ALL dive operations in Galapagos....The only yachts which apparently are not effected by this
decision ˆ at least not immediately ˆ are the Sky Dancer and the
Aggressor."

I just got another email from Ken, saying, "Things are occurring at the speed of light. My head is spinning. I
just got a call from Ecuador. The owners of the all the yachts have
collectively hired a heavy hitting attorney who supposedly is going to
be filing an emergency appeal with the supreme court of Ecuador later
today. The local Galapagos politicians are now involved with this issue
and they have requested an emergency meeting with the President of
Ecuador for the yacht owners. If approved, all the yacht owners may be
flying to Quito to meet with the president this afternoon.
I don‚t want to get your hopes up but your trip might actually still be
salvaged. I will let you know as soon as I know so sit tight.
Ken"

I haven't been able to find any info on this. The Explorer Ventures people, who also have a boat there, hadn't heard anything about it.

Has anyone else heard anything about this?
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#2 chadbeck

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 10:20 AM

I haven't heard that but would like to know what happens. I have just booked a spot for next year. However that is just a 7 day trip and I don't think ken would have booked it if they were not going to be running them.

#3 writepic

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 01:08 PM

i've just emailed the operators i use in galapagos and am waiting for them to
reply, they are not online right now so they might be in the middle of this
situation, or it might be a storm in a teacup.

i'll make a post as soon as i know.

regards,

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#4 philmayer

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 04:51 PM

I hope this turns out to be nothing since I haven't gotten to go yet. We have one of the Aggressor boats booked for next October. Our group took the whole boat.
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#5 jdaley

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 05:10 PM

I was on the Sky Dancer a couple of weeks ago and our guide was telling us how there were actually only 3 boats permitted for diving in Galapagos, the Sky Dancer and the two Aggressor boats. All the other boats were operating on a different permit intended for land excursions and snorkeling. He had heard that the park service was going to start cracking down on these other "Dive" charters and had already informed them to stop selling trips and that once they completed trips that had been sold as of some date that they must make other arrangements with the park service. Our guide thought that this permit enforcement would not begin until 2008.
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#6 gregarius

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 08:33 AM

I was on the Sky Dancer a couple of weeks ago and our guide was telling us how there were actually only 3 boats permitted for diving in Galapagos, the Sky Dancer and the two Aggressor boats. All the other boats were operating on a different permit intended for land excursions and snorkeling. He had heard that the park service was going to start cracking down on these other "Dive" charters and had already informed them to stop selling trips and that once they completed trips that had been sold as of some date that they must make other arrangements with the park service. Our guide thought that this permit enforcement would not begin until 2008.



I just got word from Ken that my Galapagos trip is now officially canceled.

I think that could possibly have been the problem.

Now I have to scramble to find the best, last-minute liveaboard solution somewhere...that's a good deal. I have the 14th-29th of July off from work and can't change that because of scheduling problems. Any suggestions on a good, last-minute liveaboard? Any and all suggestions appreciated.
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#7 writepic

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 08:48 AM

hi all,

the information by jdaley is largely correct, but please don't view the others as in any way 'cowboy' illegal operations. some of the affected are exteremely reputable companies, and have been hit hard by this
galapagos national park 'about turn'.

considering seashepherd just busted a large haul of fins in ecuador, and found a number of slaughtered
giant tortoises, you'd think GNP would have better things to be worrying about.

maybe, just maybe, all this is conenected to the recent restatus of the galapagos to world heritage site in danger.

mark
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#8 jdaley

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 09:10 AM

Agreed, I do not want to disparage the reputations any of the other operations in the Galapagos. I did not hear anything negative about these other operations only that the paperwork was not correct. I simply wanted to pass on what I had heard and to me it sounded more like paperwork/process problem for these dive charters.

I would think that the GNP would welcome and ecourage ecotourism rather these heavy handed tactics. The people that live and work in Galapagos will survive by either promoting the environment or exploiting it. If the crews on these affected boats cannot make a living catering to tourists they can easily make a living on fishing, finning or poaching boat.
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#9 chadbeck

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 10:27 AM

So can is it to assume that from now until things change the only boats allowed to dive with be the aggressors/sky dancer boats? Or does this mean that until further notice all diving is stopped?

#10 loftus

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 11:21 AM

As James said; only the Aggressors and Sky Dancer are 'legal' as dive boats. I was on the Sky Dancer with James, and there are a number of theories as to what is actually going on. One theory, is that limiting dive boats, will actually mean fewer boats around in certain areas such as Darwin and Wolf to 'observe' fishing activities. According to this theory, it is actually the fishing interests that are trying to limit dive activity. If you think about it, dive boats probably probably stress the environment a lot less than other boats that predominantly do land trips - where most of the environmental stress due to tourism occurs. While we were doing a land trip at Santiago island, there was a moderately sized cruise ship, probably carrying a couple of hunded passengers, these boats and the foot traffic they bring to the islands are far more damaging to the environment. And who do you think the cruise ship belonged to? It belongs to the head of the GNP! Talk about the fox in the hen coup.
When you put all this in the perspective of Ecuadorian politics, where presidents come and go faster than the dancers at a strip joint, one can see that the GNP, is obviously easily manipulated, and directed according to the prevailing political wind.

Edited by loftus, 12 July 2007 - 11:23 AM.

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#11 writepic

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 01:08 PM

if you look at galapagos political history, this is exactly what happens every time the fishing interests there
don't get their own way. it's not too difficult to look on the web and find plenty of accounts the time various GNP officials were ousted when fishermen rioted there over sea cucumber quotas.

maybe we should start a wetpixel petition? maybe the mods could move this thread to a more prominent place on the forum? i feel very angry.
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#12 chrism

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 02:50 PM

Not sure if this should go here or Dive Destinations, but it's pretty big news.........

Apparently the Galapagos National Park has banned all liveaboards except the Aggressor and Peter Hughes. Scuttlebutt is Agg and PH are the only two ops that have proper dive licenses/permits. All of the others were operating without permits and have been banned.

See below for email that was sent out.....



Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 12:08:08 -0400
From: Galapagos Adventures <ken@galapagosadventures.com>
To: Galapagos Adventures <ken@galapagosadventures.com>
Subject: Your Galapagos dive trip may get canceled

The majority of the dive trips in Galapagos have been cancelled by the
Galapagos National Park.

I have some very unfortunate news. On Tuesday, July 10, 2007 the
Galapagos National Park suspended ALL dive operations in Galapagos.
This decision took effect immediately and is going to effect countless
divers worldwide who are booked on numerous yachts including some people
who are already in Ecuador. There are no less than 14 yachts which on a
regular basis operate dive trips and all but 3 will be effected by this
decision. The only yachts which apparently are not effected by this
decision – at least not immediately – are the Sky Dancer and the
Aggressor.
All the other yachts were told that if they are caught operating dive
trips, their permit to operate in Galapagos will be revoked. Apparently
the GNP is now monitoring the islands of Darwin and Wolf with an
aircraft. It certainly makes me wonder why these same resources are
not used to monitor and catch illegal fishing boats but apparently the
GNP director has priorities that are different than mine.
No one is quite sure the motive behind this insane decision. One thing
that is certain is the director of the National Park either does not
understand or does not care about the economic effect this is going to
have on the local community or to Ecuador as a whole. They stand to
lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in lost revenue and
countless Ecuadorian people will be unemployed as a result of this
action. The Galapagos dive industry will to be set back years, if not
decades.

The owners of the Deep Blue traveled to the GNP headquarters on the
afternoon of July 10, 2007 to plead their case with the director in
hopes of savaging the dive tours that are booked on their yacht but
their pleads fell on deaf ears. Every possible compromise that they
suggested was vetoed without discussion. They called me right after the
meeting and told me what happened and informed me that there was going
to be another meeting of all the owners of all the yachts that are
affected by this decision to discuss bringing litigation against the
GNP. However, as I am sure you are aware, litigation, even if
successful, will take months.
They informed me that they have no choice but to cancel all the dive
charters until further notice. The conversation ended when the managing
partner / co-owner of the yacht said – “I have to go now Ken. I am
feeling very sick.”

Many divers worldwide are getting the same news that you are as the tour
operators that have dive charters on the various yachts begin to cancel
their charters. I know this for a fact as my phone has been ringing off
the hook and my email box is full with divers worldwide seeking
information and/or looking to replace their cancelled tours.
Unfortunately under the current situation, there is no way to replace
any tour because all of the yachts are in the exact same situation..

On Wednesday, July 11, 2007, I was told that the yacht owners had banned
together and had collectively hired an attorney to filing an emergency
appeal with the supreme court of Ecuador. The local Galapagos
politicians are now involved with this issue and they have requested an
emergency meeting with the President of Ecuador for the yacht owners.
Unfortunately President Correa is currently in Europe. No one knows
where this is going to lead but at this point in time, there is a fairly
good chance that all the dive trips on the Deep Blue and most other
yachts in Galapagos will be cancelled. I will let you know as soon as
I know more.

I apologize for this serious inconvenience but I sure you understand
that neither I nor anyone else can control the actions of a bureaucrat
in Ecuador.
I know that this is disappointing news but please keep things in
prospective. Many people in Ecuador are going to lose their livelihoods
over this decision and by the time all the refund are made, numerous
companies including Galapagos Adventures could possibly be out of
business.
All the above information is being sent to all divers and tour operators
who have trips booked with me. The information below is specific to
your trip. I’m sure that you may want to call me to discuss this but
please understand that everything that I know about this situation is in
this letter. I have no additional information at this time. As you
can only imagine, I have countless hours of work ahead of me to try to
do my best to clean up as much of this mess as I possibly can.
Therefore please give me a couple of days to work on things before you
call.

Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely
Ken Weemhoff
Galapagos Adventures

August 6 - 13, August 13 – 20 and August 20 – 30 Groups
I had no choice but to cancel the July 16 – 26 trip and notify all the
clients. This trip will be the first trip that the Deep Blue has been
forced to cancel. Many other yachts are also forced to cancel their
charters for next week. Therefore as of today, no one in Ecuador has
actually felt the economic impact of this crazy decision. Next week
that will change. I can only hope that being unemployed will motivate
some of the common people in Galapagos to protest against the GNP in
Puerto Ayora. The lawyers should also be heavily involved by then so
it is possible but not probable that the prospect of having to deal with
lawsuits and protests will motivate the GNP director to reconsider her
decision.

As you can probably imagine, this whole thing is creating a very
explosive situation in Ecuador. I expect very soon the international
press will get word of this and then the pressure will really begin heat
up on the Ecuadorian politicians. It is my personal belief that the
director of the national park will probably lose her job over this
decision but only time will tell. In my option, the sooner this happens
the better.

Unfortunately there is not much time before your trip and therefore is a
strong possibility your trip will be cancelled. Here is what I
recommend:
1. Be aware of the situation but don’t panic. This situation is very
new and the effects of it have not been felt in Ecuador yet. Let’s give
things a little time to see where they go. I would like to wait for at
least two weeks (until July 27) before canceling your trip.
2. In the meantime, I would like everyone on these trips to consider
whether or not they would be interested in doing a naturalist trip in
Galapagos instead. I understand that you really want to dive in
Galapagos and that is what you signed up to do but if that is not
possible, the land stuff is also fantastic. The GNP is only targeting
dive trips at this point in time so converting your trip to a naturalist
trip should not be a problem. If enough people are interested in doing
this so we can cover the cost of operating the yacht, I’m pretty sure
the owners of the yacht would agree to it. At least this way your
vacation would not be a complete washout. Very shortly I am going to
ask each of you if you would be interested in doing this. That way I
have an idea how many people are interested in a plan “B”.
3. I have prepaid for all of your services in Ecuador. If the trip is
canceled, I will cancel all your arrangements and I will work on getting
refunds from all the suppliers. I will refund all the money you sent me
for the trip after the money is recovered.
4. I have requested the email address of the Minister or Tourism for
Ecuador but so far no one has been able to supply me with this
information. If and when I get this information, I will pass it on to
you so you can email her a complaint.
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#13 james

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 03:43 PM

Hi Gang,

I've merged all these topics together and moved them to the Destinations section.

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#14 shawnh

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 07:52 PM

Hey folks,

I have a contact in Galapagos who has a good understanding of the current situation. The following is a synopsis of what I learned from him today.

The GNPS is beginning to enforce tourism regulations in the Galapagos as there are numerous tourism operators who only possess land tourism permits, but also carry out dive tourism as well. Tour operators benefited from the ambiguity and lack of enforcement over the years and offered services they were not permitted to. Now many tour operators have been stopped from offering this option.

GNPS is elaborating a new dive tourism permit process and hopes to define the framework within the next 6 months. Next year GNPS will begin a competitive process and issue new permits to operators who meet the criteria.

Currently only 3 live aboad operators legally operate diving operations in the Galapagos: 2 of Herbert Frei`s boats (Aggressor) and 1 of Santiago Dunn (Ecoventura). In addition, several dive shops, such as Scuba Iguana and SubAqua, also have permission.

Regarding how soon permits be available to yachts that have been providing live aboard dive trips for years in Galapagos, it is difficult to answer. GNPS has not addressed this issue for over 5 years because of politicalization of the institution. Since the Park has now begun enforcing the law, it is because they will soon work out the regulations and permit process. It is not likely that this will be resolved before the end of the year..

The GNPS is now regaining its credibilty and believe that both fishing and tourism regulations will be enforced equally. The Park faced much criticism from the fishing sector as they were constantly singled out for regulation violations while tourism operators did not respect Park laws either. The current Park Director is making it her priority to enforce all laws equally. She has inherited many problems that have been accumulating over the years and trying to be objective in a system where people have traditionally received what they want through bribes or collective pressure.

Please note: none of this information reflects any opinion or first hand knowledge on my behalf regarding the situation in Galapagos. This is only what has been related to me.
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#15 Hamish Morrison

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 02:47 AM

We have just had our August trip cancelled by RegalDive here in the UK. We were due to be on Tip Top III but clearly they have fallen foul of the newly enforced regs. We have been able to rebook on MV Daphne for the same dates (give or take) but I'm concerned that this trip will go the same way within the next couple of weeks! I guess time will tell, but I'm not overly confident we will make it to the Galapagos this year!
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#16 writepic

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 04:48 AM

shawnh,

good post. lets hope that her true intentions are the betterment of the running of the park. it is true that such a hard stance of regulations is exactly what is required, and maybe the recent arrival of correa
as president has enabled such transitions in ecuador to begin to take place. however, i heard this week
that correa has tried to bribe 18 mp's to try to gain control over the interest rate (media source) . so equally we may just be facing more of the same old same old.

support for fishermen in the galapagos is exteremely deep running, and obscured by corruption. let's hope that this may be and end to that too.

only time will tell. what is hurting the galapagos right now is this stupid way of managing the interim period of change. that needs to be addressed. if this is to take well into next year, which it probably will, then some short term solution needs to be arrived at, otherwise the damage will be far more than a few pockets.

a close friend of mine is involved in the drawing up of the diving law with the ministry of tourism, and that had been going on since late last year so we can only sit and wait i guess.

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#17 shawnh

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 07:12 AM

Couldn't agree more with you. Odds are stacked against real progress and corruption runs deep in that part of the world. I really hope this is going to turn for the better. In the interim they need to find a short term permit to keep the industry from crashing so that countless folks don't loose tourism jobs, jobs that don't involve extracting endangered marine life from the park.
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#18 Carlos Morais

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 02:50 PM

Hi,

very useful posts to me. Unfortunatly I have my first trip to Galápagos booked for 20th to 28th October 2007. My travel Agency has not confirm any cancelation. The boat is the catamaran NEMO II.

I'll be waiting :)
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#19 scubafriends

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 05:22 PM

Sorry, that I posted wrong...
If you are having trouble with your bookings to Galapagos, surely there will be aggressor openings as I know we have some on our boats for Sept...

Two years ago at Dema --- I almost booked with Deep Blue -- Because the company was new, I chose the Aggressor -- I can not imagine what you all are going through --- For us we have had the Aggressor trip booked for 2 1/2 years!! It is a long time to wait for the trip we have all dreamed of... I can only imagine how devasted divers are going to be but also tour wholesalers and the owners of the live aboards!

Pam

Edited by scubafriends, 16 July 2007 - 06:07 AM.


#20 james

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 05:29 PM

Hi Scubafriends,

Please keep all trip solicitations and announcements in the Commercial Trips forum. That's Wetpixel policy.

This thread is for the discussion of the current permitting situation. If you wouldn't mind editing your post to remove the solicitation that would be great.

Thanks
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