Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Jan 14 (EFE).- Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Friday signed a decree that expands the existing Galapagos Marine Reserve, a move aimed at protecting the biodiversity of that migratory corridor in the tropical Pacific Ocean and safeguarding endangered species.
The ceremony took place aboard the Sierra Negra, a ship docked in Puerto Ayora Bay just off that Ecuadorian archipelago’s Santa Cruz Island, and was attended by Colombian President Ivan Duque, former US President Bill Clinton and high-level delegations from Costa Rica and Panama.
“We may be a small territory. Our environmental footprint may be tiny compared with wealthier countries, but the planet is also ours,” Lasso said after signing the executive decree.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve will be expanded by 60,000 square kilometers (23,165 square miles), meaning the current 138,000-sq.-km protected area around the islands will be enlarged by more than 40 percent.
In his remarks on Friday, Lasso hailed the unity demonstrated by Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica and said the decree sends a “clear message to the world.”
“From these islands that have taught us so much, we say to our fellow (global) citizens that a new relationship with the Earth is possible,” he said.
The decision to enlarge the marine reserve was announced last November at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where Lasso said the expansion would be financed through the world’s biggest-ever debt-for-conservation swap.
The new reserve will establish a marine corridor between the Galapagos Islands and the Costa Rican-administered Cocos Island, an area known as a MigraVia because of its use as a swimway for dozens of protected species.
During the Glasgow summit, the presidents of Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia signed an agreement to protect that corridor and announced plans to establish an area spanning dozens of square kilometers that would protect unique species in the Tropical Eastern Pacific.
Colombian President Ivan Duque said at Friday’s ceremony that the accord was “unprecedented,” adding that the expansion of the reserve not only is aimed at ensuring those waters are not exploited but also “guaranteeing the survival of more than 40 percent of the world’s marine species.”
Among the goals of the agreement is to ensure sustainable management of Cocos Island (Costa Rica), the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Malpelo Island (Colombia) and Coiba Island (Panama) and conserve a MigraVia that is regarded as one of the world’s most biodiverse.
The expansion will create two new protected zones, each measuring 30,000 sq km.
One will include the Cocos Ridge off Cocos Island and will be off limits to all fishing activity.
The other will be a northwestern extension of the existing Galapagos Marine Reserve and constitute a no-longline fishing zone as well as a living laboratory for conducting scientific research. EFE