Dave Blanton, Exec Director of IGTOA.
Wildland Adventures is a charter member of IGTOA (International Galapagos Tour Operators Association) and our President and Founder Kurt Kutay is currently the IGTOA Board President. We concur with the message below written by Dave Blanton, IGTOA Executive Director. For more information on this issue click here.
During its annual meeting in Brazil, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from its World Heritage in Danger List. The Galapagos was placed on the list at the 2007 WHC meeting.
The decision was controversial, as the Galapagos has only been on the Danger List for three years. It is noteworthy that UNESCO World Heritage Centre itself was not recommending removal from the Danger List. There is a World Heritage Centre in Paris, but a group of host country delegations form the World Heritage Committee, which votes on inclusion.
Should the Galapagos Islands have been removed from the Danger List? We don't think so.
This is not a comment on efforts by the government of Ecuador and those in the private sector who have shown leadership. Rather it is a comment on the enormous challenges that lie ahead and the resources needed to meet them. The impressive progress Ecuador made demonstrates a will and dedication to protect the islands. This has included the eradication of goats from Isabela, immigration control, new introduced species control including fumigation of aircraft, GPS monitoring of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, and other significant steps.
But taking the Galapagos off the Danger List implies that they are no longer in danger. And this sends the wrong message to the rest of the world, especially to donor countries and organizations, and to travelers and tour companies.
The problems listed when the Galapagos was placed on the Danger List still exist - to the extent that the islands can experience irreversible change. These include introduced species, human settlement, and tourism. Added to this list is climate change which, combined with other pressures, can have a catastrophic impact.
The government of Ecuador and progressive elements in the private sector do have the will and the leadership to meet these challenges. But do they have enough resources to protect a fragile archipelago from globalization, climate change, in increased human impact?
Having the Galapagos Islands removed from the World Heritage in Danger List can be a source of pride for Ecuador. But let's hope it does not send the wrong message to the rest of the world.