Some of the current problems regarding the management and operation of NGO's on the Galapagos Islands are as follows:
Lack of resources and funding
It seems obvious that the biggest problem facing the NGOs and administration on the Galapagos is a lack of sufficient resources. This was also addressed as a concern by the Assistant Minister of Environment during a brief interview with Mission 2008 student Sebastian Castro. Moreover, it is also recognized as a concern in UNESCO's World Heritage Nomination Boards IUCN Technical Evaluation: "The Bureau expressed the urgency for further strengthening of management, particularly on enforcement activities... Despite all the other areas of progress, the lack of sufficient enforcement has led to a continued over-fishing which is a major threat to Galapagos marine environment." (WHN, 1999).
The oil spill created by the tanker Jessica in 2001 exposed that Ecuadorian resources were insufficient to handle such catastrophes. Luckily the damages were less than expected, but there has been much discussion and planning regarding how to manage similar situations in the future.
The current NGO's are operating with minimal budgets. One of the largest ones actually performing research on the Islands is the Charles Darwin Foundation with an annual budget of $4.9M (2004). Besides that, there are a few smaller organizations, but their individual contributions are far less. Their ability to influence the decision making process is very limited due their fragmentation; thus it is difficult for the voice of preservation to be heard.
Internal problems within the administration on all levels
- Inefficient use of funds
- Rivaling interest groups driving the government
- Opposition in congress
- Government's poor attitude towards international intervention
There are several concerning issues regarding the operation of the Ecuadorian government and the administration on the Galapagos Islands. A key issue affecting the creation of a viable approach to preserving the islands is the understandable objections of the Ecuadorian government to allow an outside international organization maintain the islands with its own autonomy. Unfortunately this severely limits the magnitude of the effects to preserve the parks. At times, the government can be inconsistent in their reaction to international support. They are typically willing to accept monetary donations, but are hesitant towards granting foreign organizations a greater role in maintaining the park.
Lack of respect towards regulations and laws
- Implementation of enacted laws
- Enforcement of regulations
Related to the problems mentioned above, there are serious internationally recognized problems in the implementation and enforcement of current regulations and laws. For example, "both the Navy and the marine unit of the GNP have intercepted a number of vessels and discouraged others but prosecutions have been few and illegal fishing continues. Even worse, the Navy has allowed the release of several seized vessels which has implicated them in the illegal fishing business and reduced the Government's credibility in enforcing the law?" (WHN, 1999).
In addition, due to conditions mentioned above, there are still serious threats facing the marine population. "Annual monitoring reports on the illegal commercial fisheries in the Galapagos Marine Reserve show that many thousands of sharks have been taken out of Galapagos waters and that long-lining for other finfish have had severe effects on many other species. Moreover, the loosely regulated controls on sea cucumber harvesting have led to a precipitous decline in the population which may never recover to sustainable levels." (WHN, 1999).
Lack of access and consistency in data produced
There are no existing statistics regarding the critical information on the Galapagos Islands available to the general public. Such information is important when trying to build confidence and generally approving atmosphere towards the conservation efforts on the islands.
Social tension between various groups acting on the islands
There have been several alarming incidents on the islands involving the local community. In 2004, nearly thirty armed fishermen assaulted offices maintained by the Galapagos Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. They demanded that the restriction on fishing of sea cucumbers be removed, despite the environmental implications. They were strictly opposed to the government limiting the number of sea cucumbers they could harvest during the sixty day fishing season. Meanwhile, a counter protest was launched against the fishermen by supporters of the Galapagos Park Service and Charles Darwin Research Station. Those protestors were forced to disburse by police action; however, the fishermen were allowed to remain. However, despite the fishermen's efforts, the Ecuadorian Constitutional tribunal finally ruled that they would continue imposing limits in order to preserve the islands' biodiversity and maintain the sea cucumber population.
- Illegal and excessive fishing
- Illegal camping
- Human pressure caused by the growing population with estimated annual growth of 8.5% per year mostly on account of immigration (WHN, 1999)
- Growing tourism industry
- Impact from introduced exotic flora and fauna