The Special Law of Galápagos
What is the Special Law of Galápagos?
The Special Law is a lengthy
piece of legislation passed by the Ecuadorian government in March of 1998. It
covers a wide range of topics, but in essence is the framework through which the
Galápagos islands are managed at the political level. The following are the
legislation's main points:
- The constitution of the Ecuadorian Republic grants
permission for Galápagos to be run by a Special Regime, and for its
protection, the rights of free residence, property, and commerce can be
restricted. However, said constitution also guarantees people the right to
live in an environment free of pollution and it is the obligation of the
State to preserve this right and do anything necessary to preserve the
- Galápagos is a Natural Heritage of Humanity site, and is
included on the list of Biosphere Reserves for its scientific, natural, and
educational value. It is the duty of the Ecuadorian State to the world to
preserve the Galápagos Islands for present and future generations.
- The State must maintain the integrity of all natural
areas, both terrestrial and marine, as well as provide the means for
responsible human development on the islands; developing legislation that
preserves the environment as well as giving the islands' inhabitants the
means for development.
- Activities of the political establishment, as well as the
public and private sector are restricted within the frame of the following
a) The maintenance of ecological systems and the biodiversity of the
province of Galápagos, particularly native and endemic species, permitting
the natural continuation of the evolutionary mechanism with minimal human
b) Sustainable and controllable development within the
capacity of strain that the environment has.
- The National Institute of Galápagos, INGALA, is a
governmental entity that has the right to create public legislation, which
has its own jurisdiction and judicial components, and has administrative and
financial autonomy. Its headquarters are located in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno,
on the island of San Cristóbal. INGALA is made up of two components, the
Council of INGALA and the Technical Secretariat, which in turn is made up of
Management division and all other bodies under its control.
a) It is the special duty and right of INGALA to assist
all institutions on the archipelago in any matters regarding the
conservation of the environment, public services, community welfare,
sustainable development, the order of tourism, the exploitation of natural
resources and the formation of human resources whose services may be
required on the islands.
b) The Council of INGALA is responsible for the political
activities of the Galápagos islands. Its main members are as follows: the
Ministers of the Environment, Finance, Defense, Tourism, Commerce (which
includes departments of industrialization and fishing); the Governor,
Provincial Prefect, and President of the Agricultural/Fishing Association,
as well as as one representative each from the Subsistence Fishermen, the
Ecuadorian Committee for the Defense of the Environment, and the Charles
Darwin Foundation. The Charles Darwin representative does not have a vote on
c) The Technical Secretariat is in charge of executing the
decisions made by the Council of INGALA. It enforces all legal, judicial,
and extra-judicial powers assigned to INGALA and is also in charge of
honoring all contracts made with the public or private sector, whether they
be national or foreign in nature.
- The Marine reserve is managed by the Interinstitutional
Management Authority. It is composed by the Ministers of the Environment,
Defense, Commerce and Tourism, as well as representatives from the Chamber
of Tourism, the Sustenance Fishermen, and the Conservation sector. It is in
charge of approving all legislation regarding the Marine Reserve. This
includes plans for its sustainable development, resource assignments, and
authorization for any scientific activity to take place in its waters. Most
importantly, it approves the fishing calendar, as well as the volume,
dimensions, species of fish, and methods of fishing which may take place in
the Marine reserve.
- All Galapagan institutions of government are subject to
the policies created by INGALA.
- The construction of new touristic infrastructure is
strictly regulated by INGALA and will only be allowed to take forth by
permanent residents of the islands who must prove:
a) That it will produce local benefits.
b) Guarantee the quality of tourism services as
established by the Special Rules of Tourism in Protected Areas legislation.
c) Guarantee minimal impact on the environment.
d) Be established within expressly permitted zones
delineated by regional and environmental law.
- It is a high priority of INGALA to eradicate invasive
species of the islands through any means permitted by law.
These are just the
main points contained within the legislation of the Special Law of Galápagos.
Most of them go into much more depth and many topics not included here are
covered. I strongly urge you to check out the
Ministry of the Environment site and
see the written document in its entirety.