Ecuadorian, Israeli scientists discuss protecting Galapagos

By Daniela Brik

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Feb 7 (EFE).- Conservation experts from Ecuador and Israel starting Monday are participating in a symposium to analyze environmental protection activities and solutions for the Galapagos Islands after the expansion of the marine preserve around the archipelago some 900 kilometers (560 miles) west of the Ecuadorian mainland.

The meeting titled “Sustainability of the Galapagos Islands: The 21st Century and Beyond” is being organized by the Charles Darwin Foundation (FCD) and the University of Tel Aviv (TAU) and will run through Wednesday with the participation of experts in conservation, the environment and marine ecosystems at the Charles Darwin Scientific Station on Santa Cruz Island.

The meeting is “the best example of the policy of President Guillermo Lasso, of more Ecuador in the world and more world in Ecuador,” Ecuador’s ambassador to Israel, Hellen Deller, said in a recorded message at the start of the conference.

She was referring to Lasso’s decree three weeks ago to expand the marine preserve territory around the archipelago to create one of the largest protected marine areas in the world, and she called the scientific meeting “a new step in this framework of the conservation efforts of Ecuador, the international community and Israel.”

“At this event, what we want is to explore new lines of research, new technologies, innovative models, methodologies and in this way to strengthen the existing alliances,” FCD Science Director Maria Jose Barragan told EFE before talking about the main issues to be discussed at the meeting: conservation, sustainability and threats to the archipelago.

Although this is the first such meeting in the Galapagos, it is the second scientific collaboration in which the FCD is working with TAU, the first one having been held two years ago in Tel Aviv.

The Ecuadorian participants include representatives from the FCD, the Galapagos National Park, the Special Regimen Government Council for the islands and researchers from Quito’s University of San Francisco.

At the meeting Ainoa Nieto, with the FCD, discussed the threat posed by plastic waste to the turtles and tortoises on the islands, while Jenifer Suarez, a biologist with the national park discussed a pilot project to restore the local coral, a marine animal that also lives along the coasts of the Red Sea in southern Israel.

Thirteen experts from different Israeli universities and representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry are also at the conference, and 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Ada Yonath sent a recorded presentation on antibiotics and the problems of resistance to them.

Israel’s ambassador to Quito, Zeev Harel, noted that his country has more than 1,000 emerging companies focused on “protecting the environment,” which include 10 percent of all tech firms founded in Israel over the past year.

The Lasso administration has proposed moving closer to Israel to seek scientific and technological cooperation, and he was scheduled to visit the Middle Eastern country in January, although that trip had to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

His aim is to encourage entrepreneurship and productivity via formulas, tools and research procedures developed in Israel.

Israel also has some of the problems that the Galapagos Islands have, said Noa Shenkar, a marine biologist with the Biological Sciences Department and the Museum of Natural History at TAU, adding that she is sure that the symposium will create synergies and foster the exchange of knowledge.

As an example, she mentioned the invasive species that move from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal, saying that they have studied them and can share their knowledge and analysis to make trustworthy recommendations for the Galapagos.

Another problems is with drinking water, an area where Israel is on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly inventions.

Dror Avisar, with the TAU Water Research Center, presented two initiatives at the meeting: one for creating potable water from the humidity in the air and another for treating wastewater.

“We can offer several things. Drinking water, first. This is … the most essential thing for living. So … we are offering a system, that (is) not connected to any facilities, to any water source, … free from any drought or water consumption. And the only thing we need is electricity. This machine can produce drinking water from the moisture in the air,” he told EFE, regarding the device the size of two refrigerators that can produce 80,000 liters (21,135 gallons) per day.

EFE db/elb/laa/bp

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