Agriculture on the Galapagos
Because much of the Galapagos population has arrived in the past 15 years, the background of the citizens is very diverse. A large boom of immigration occurred in the mid-90's, when waves of Ecuadorian refugees fled to the Galapagos in order to find better jobs and get-rich-quick schemes (McFarland). Because the education policies in Ecuador and the Galapagos do not encourage ecological training, many of the current residents do not have any sense of the consequences of their actions. For example, the enforcement agency SICGAL made three times more confiscations of illegal items in luggage from residents than any other group of people (ie. tourists and other visitors) when residents have less than 25% of the luggage coming onto the islands (Kerr). This common act of bringing things to the islands is not always intentional. Cargo is a prime place for rodents and other invasive species to hide such that when unloaded on the islands, the alien species are introduced into the island ecosystem.
A large problem with ecosystem contamination of this sort is seen in the transport of produce. In an effort to reduce the need for transport of food onto the islands, the Charles Darwin Foundation is encouraging the agricultural projects on the islands to strive for self-sufficiency. According to an interview with resident of the Galapagos and Ministry of Agriculture worker, Byron Fonseca, the Galapagos can almost provide completely for itself, except most residents choose not to buy local produce. Although improvements are being made in shipment quarantine, the spread of invasive species has not been completely eliminated. A large factor in this is lack of funding for inspection stations and training and no permanent base camp for inspections. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture has had a history of personnel strikes and lack of workers (Kerr).
Additional problems with invasive species arise when considering the cattle that have been brought to the islands. Feral pigs and goats have been wreaking havoc on the natural flora of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Santiago, Isabela, and Floreana. These animals are serious predators and very aggressive (McFarland). Santiago had a severe problem with goats and pigs, so sent out teams of park rangers to shoot the pigs. Thousands were killed and the problem on Santiago has been almost completely taken care of (Darwin Foudation), but is this the best method? One idea for the management of these cattle species is to establish pig farms. The feral pigs would need to be rounded up, but once in containment, these would provide food for the residents and tourists, while relieving the islands of the stress of these invasive animals. Plant species used for crops have been known to jump from fields to the surrounding areas, making mutant species of plants that compete with the natural flora. This is part of the reason 36 types of vascular plants are currently endangered in the Galapagos (McFarland). All of this strain on the natural ecosystem is slowing pushing plants and animals to extinction.
Or order to deal with all of these threats, our plan for the agricultural situation on the Galapagos is to support the projects currently underway through the Charles Darwin Foundation, as well as increasing education of local farmers and consumers of the benefits of green methods and buying local products. For example, by educating the farmers in the Galapagos about crop rotation and grazing portioning, the fertility of the soil can be conserved for many more years, preventing the need to abandon a plot of land for a new area.
Agriculture requires large tracts of land, a commodity in high demand in the Galapagos. In 1979, the amount of farmland was decided to be 24,000 hectares, and only varies slightly because the rest of the land belongs to the Galapagos National Park (Ley). In order to limit the expansion of farming area, the Galapagos National Park must not sell more land for development. If sustainable agricultural practices are improved, as the Charles Darwin Foundation is currently working towards, more can be grown in less space and with smaller impact on the islands.
The Charles Darwin Foundation is also working towards providing water to farms during the dry season of the year. Implementing rainwater cisterns on farms and building a pipeline or trench system from the Solar Aquatic System will provide farms with more water without removing so much from the source wells used throughout the city. Of the current water usages in the Galapagos, the small percentage of the population that is farming is using almost half of the water pumped. The total water demand in the Galapagos is about 2,500,000 cubic meters per year, but almost exactly half of that is used for Agricultural purposes (Ley). By channeling the clean water from the SAS to water towers in the countryside, extra stress on city wells can be alleviated.
One more problem with the agricultural scene in the Galapagos is that more and more of the residents are seeking rural homes and jobs (Kerr). Although residences in a rural environment may seem desirable, this will be a spread of inhabited areas on the island, thus increasing surface area of human affected areas. This will need to be prevented through clarification in regulations on building and inter-island migration.
Sea Cucumber population in the Galapagos is rapidly declining. After the harvest of culinary sea cucumbers in the Galapagos began in the late 1980's, almost the entire population has been depleted, and signs of immediate recovery seem unlikely. Pepineros, sea cucumber fishermen, have been very outspoken about the ban on sea cucumber fishing. Evidence of this can be seen in the hostage situation at the Darwin Research Station and the unnecessary slaughter of hundreds of giant tortoises. In order to quench the foreign markets for sea cucumbers, it seems beneficial to start growing sea cucumbers through aquaculture. The commercial specimens would grow in monitored environments and be sold, while the natural sea cucumbers will be able to repopulate and recover in the oceanic environment off the coast of Galapagos. This system would also aid scientists in researching the sea cucumber, as not a lot is known about its life cycle and growth processes. Another benefit of aquaculture is that the facilities would not necessarily have to be on the islands. This would be beneficial at first, when specimens must be transplanted from the ocean to the aquaculture facilities, but after a stock is established, the facilities do not need to be on the islands. Wherever it is located, though, the profits of such an endeavour would be huge. This method would reduce the pressures on the sea cucumber populations while not disbanding the market of sea cucumbers.
Miller, Marc. "Environmental Degredation." Galapagos Coalition. Emory University School of Law.
Aquaculture of sea cucumbers
* Aquaculture- business of cultivating marine or freshwater food fish or shellfish, such as oysters, clams, salmon, and trout, under controlled conditions.
Aquaculture in the US
* Current research goals
o Genetic improvement of aquatic species
o Aquatic animal health management
o Reproduction and early development
o Sustainability and environmental compatibility of aquaculture
o Quality and safety of aquaculture products for consumers
* Because there are few regions on San Cristobal where aquaculture can be implemented, it would make most sense for us to implement offshore aquaculture
* Major issue- leasing regions in the ocean- who is allowed to start agriculture developments in certain areas?
o Possible solution- designate a certain region of the ocean to be an agricultural zone, and have the government lease it out as if it were land.
Resources required for offshore aquaculture
* Marine based
o Cages for breeding, growth and development, and containment.
o Moorings, food distribution system, and cage cleaners.
o Service boats
* Land based
o Service vehicles
o Fish transport vehicle
Importance of sea cucumbers
The threat to the sea cucumbers is being driven by culinary demand. Sea cucumbers are highly prized delicacies in many East Asian cuisines, says David Challinor, the Smithsonian Institution's science adviser. A high-quality food, sea cucumber flesh is 50%-60% protein.
Of approximately 1200 species found worldwide, approximately two dozen are considered edible. In the Galapagos, only Stichopus fuscus is fished commercially.
The soft-bodied echinoderms live on the ocean floor, ingesting mud and other sediments from with they extract their food. In bottom sediments rich in organic matter, sea cucumbers can account for 90% of the biomass, according to Elliott Norse, chief scientist of the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, DC.
Sea cucumbers play a vital role in ocean ecology, says David Pawson, a scientist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Like earthworms on land, they turn over bottom sediments, which helps free nutrients. In the food chain, the sperm, eggs, and larvae of sea cucumbers are eaten by organisms from single-celled animals to fish, Pawson adds.
Scientists are concerned by the sea cucumber harvesting, because studies show that when there is overfishing or when a natural die-off occurs, sea cucumber numbers can be depressed for years. At Chuuk Atoll in Micronesia, for example, populations still have not recovered from overfishing before World War II, according to a 1993 study by Robert Richmond of the University of Guam.
Scientists and conservationists remain concerned. Even though proposals have been made to raise sea cucumbers in captivity as Japan does, the process is not simple. It requires overcoming what Pawson calls "endless difficulties"--finding sexually mature animals, getting them to mate in the lab, finding the right food for larvae, and knowing when to release the sea cucumbers.
Posadas, Benedict. "Economic Feasibility of Offshore Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico." [http://www.msstate.edu/dept/crec/publish/offshore%20aquaculture%20economics%202003.pdf]
Fletcher, Kirsten. "Marine Aquaculture Zoning: A Sustainable Approach in the Growth of Offshore Aquaculture." [http://www.olemiss.edu/orgs/SGLC/zoning.htm]. March 26, 2004.
"USDA Agricultural Research Service." [http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/programs/programs.htm?NP_CODE=106].
McFarland, Craig and Miguel Cifuentas. "Case Study: Ecuador."
Suzi Kerr et al. "Migration and the Environment in the Galapagos." 2003.
"Growing Together." Charles Darwin Foundation. 2001.
Ley, Debora. "An Assessment of Energy and Water in the Galapagos Islands." 2003.
"Special Regime for the Preservation and Sustainable Development of the Province of Galapagos." Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc. 2002.