Jump to content
gregarius

Galapagos National Park Dive Permit Impacts

Recommended Posts

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?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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,

 

mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.â€

 

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 “Bâ€.

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Gang,

 

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

 

James

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

 

m

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

James Wiseman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

 

Cheers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.com/forum/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.

 

gc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sponsors

Advertisements



×
×
  • Create New...