WWF warns of risks of allowing direct int’l flights to Galapagos

Quito, Jun 10 (efe-epa).- The World Wide Fund for Nature on Wednesday expressed concern over the possibility that airports on Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands could be authorized to receive direct international flights, saying such a move would pose a serious risk to that archipelago’s fragile ecosystems.

WWF Ecuador’s statement referred to an announcement Tuesday concerning one of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s line-item vetoes of a Covid-19 humanitarian support bill.

In the section pertaining to the Galapagos, Moreno established that different Ecuadorian authorities – the Galapagos Government Council, the sectoral ministries of environment and tourism and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, among others – will conduct studies on the feasibility of activating the islands’ airports for direct international flights.

The Fund said it “rejects the nature of this provision due to the risk it represents for Galapagos’ fragile ecosystems, which are closely linked to the livelihoods of the local community.”

The WWF also called on the Ecuadorian government to promote and develop solutions for the archipelago’s economic recovery “that do not infringe upon or compromise the ecological integrity of this invaluable natural heritage for current and future generations.”

In addition, the statement recalled that the Organic Law for the Special Regime of Galapagos Province warns of the “potential risk of introducing invasive species.”

The international environmental organization urged Ecuador to increase support for the archipelago and examine other ways of helping it cope with the current coronavirus-triggered halt to tourism, its main source of revenue.

“At present, the risk of the introduction and spread of invasive species represents one of the main threats to the Galapagos’ unique biodiversity, as well as to its economic development and the social and medical wellbeing of its inhabitants,” the statement read.

The WWF also stressed that non-native species enter the Galapagos Islands primarily because of the constant increase in demand for products from the mainland and the arrival of growing numbers of tourists from different parts of the world.

Located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of the coast of continental Ecuador, the archipelago is home to the world’s seventh-largest marine protected area – the Galapagos Marine Reserve, established in 1998.

Ecuador’s government also has designated nearly 97 percent of the archipelago’s land mass as a national park.

Both the islands and the Galapagos Marine Reserve have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The archipelago – which consists of 13 major islands, six smaller islands and scores of islets and rocks – was made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands inspired him to develop his theory about evolution, natural selection and the origin of species.

The Galapagos, which are known for their rich biodiversity, owe their name to the giant tortoises that live there.



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