The following appeared in the South American Explorers newsletter, with the original text from the IGTOA – International Galapagos Tour Operators Association. This follows a National Geographic stewardship survey report that there has been significant deterioration in the Galapagos, mostly due to an influx of more tourists than the area can handle. If you’re heading that way at some point soon, please do the right thing and use a tour company that does more than just pay lip service to environmental protection.

“Galapagos is in a state of emergency,” states the headline in Ecuador’s newspaper, El Comercio. It was referring to a decision made April 10 by Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, who signed an emergency decree stating that Galapagos is in crisis.

President Correa stated that he would consider temporarily suspending tourism permits and enforcing rigorous population restrictions to prevent further environmental harm. “We are pushing for a series of actions to overcome the huge institutional, environmental and social crisis in the islands,” President Correa said.

He did not give details about possible restrictions. But he ordered the Governor of Galapagos to convene an urgent meeting of the Institute Nacional Galapagos (INGALA). The objective will be to determine the state of conservation and development in the islands, with possible temporary suspension of new tourist and air operations.

In a press release, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) indicated “strong support for yesterday’s declaration by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa that Galapagos is at risk and is a national conservation priority.” (see full text below)

President Correa’s pronouncement comes as a high level delegation from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, led by its Director, Francesco Bandarin, visits Ecuador. Its aim is to study the state of Galapagos and make recommendations next June on whether to list Galapagos as a World Heritage in Danger. Talks between the UN delegation and members of the government are taking place in Quito and Galapagos. President Correa said that Ecuador does not need attention from international organizations, saying, “We are conscious of the high priority and importance of Galapagos for our country.”

These events follow in the footsteps of a recent assault on the authority and personnel of the Galapagos National Park, as reported in an IGTOA bulletin. Park Director, Raquel Molina, and several Park Rangers suffered injuries while attempting to stop a kayaking operation on Baltra Island.

There seems to be a growing consensus that tourism development needs to be contained and regulated.