Quito, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- Volunteer divers and park rangers from the Galápagos Marine Reserve hauled 2,239 kilograms (4,936 pounds) of garbage from the islands’ seabed in a cleanup campaign on Thursday, the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the protected area.
Plastic, rusted iron and pieces of wood, wire, tubes, pipes, boots, plastic mats, fishing nets, house roofing and other objects were removed in bags from one of the best preserved natural spaces on the planet and gathered in the ports to be disposed of.
The operation was spearheaded by the Galápagos National Park in collaboration with Conservation International, diving tour operators and local governments, and was carried out in the three most important bays of the islands, the environment ministry announced.
“In total, 2,239 kilograms, mostly plastic garbage, rope, nets and buoys, was removed from the sea, among other [things],” the ministry said in a statement.
The three zones chosen for the operation were Academy Bay of Santa Cruz island, Shipwreck Bay on San Cristobal island and Villamil Bay on Isabela island.
The Itabaca Channel separating the islands of Baltra and Santa Cruz was also cleaned.
“The clean-up program has been carried out every year since 2017. By 2020, a total of 42 tons of waste had been removed,” environmental quality technician Galo Quezada told EFE.
“The plastic waste found has foreign labels. The biggest amount of plastic is dragged in by currents from different countries” thousands of kilometers away, he added.
Dozens of people participated in the clean-up, mostly professional voluntary divers and rangers.
“The archipelago is a unique place, with an invaluable space of natural richness that requires special care, so it is our obligation to continue working for its conservation,” Environment Minister Marcelo Mata Guerrero said on the anniversary.
The marine protected area comprises 40 miles from the base line of the archipelago’s boundary islands, and spans an area of more than 138,000 square kilometers distributed around the group of islands that make up the archipelago.
The Galápagos Marine Reserve is nearly half the size of the total land area of Ecuador and is one of the largest in the world.
It is also part of Ecuador’s system of protected areas and home to over 2,900 species, 25 percent of them endemic.
The Galápagos Islands, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 because of its unique terrestrial and marine ecosystem, is located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of Ecuador’s Pacific coast. EFE-EPA