President Guillermo Lasso announced Monday that the marine reserve surrounding the Galapagos Islands will expand by 60,000 square kilometers, an enlargement of almost 50 percent of the current preserve. Lasso made the announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
Ecuador has been under national and international pressure from environmental organizations to enlarge the preserve for several years due to the frequent presence of the Chinese fishing fleet, which anchors as many as 300 factory fishing ships within a kilometer of the current preserve boundary. The enlargement of protected waters means fishing ships will be pushed back an additional seven to 10 miles from the islands.
Lasso said that the expansion comes at a financial cost, as Ecuador’s tuna fleet will be deprived of some its richest fishing grounds. According to environmental groups, former president Lenin Moreno rejected expansion of the preserve due to pressure from the country’s fishing industry.
“I met with members of the fishing sector prior to announcing the decision, explaining the importance of conservation and the protection of one of the worlds’ most unique ecosystems,” Lasso said. “I assured owners of the various fleets that the government will provide assistance to offset the losses as well as investing in technology to assist in their operations.”
Lasso also said he had notified the Chinese government of the new preserve boundaries prior to today’s announcement.