Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine wildlife conservation organization, has announced that it will be preparing a study to help determine what businesses contribute to the protection of the National Park and what businesses are a part of the problem in Galapagos.
The study was prompted by recent discoveries of tourism-related illegal fishing activity in the Galapagos Islands. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society endorses tourism in the Galapagos as long as efforts are taken to preserve the ecological system as much as possible.
In order to do so, it is imperative that tour boat operators and guides adhere to strict observation of the National Park laws where objective is to protect the unique flora and fauna on the islands and in the waters of the Galapagos.
Captain Paul Watson, the Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a man with over thirty years experience as an environmental conservationist, believes that for the most part the tour boat and dive boat operators are responsible businessmen who recognize the value of tourism in protecting these islands.
Captain Watson admits, “Sure, we would like to see the Galapagos uninhabited and left to the creatures of the wild, but the reality is that some 25,000 people are living here and more and more people are coming to the islands every week.”
Most agree that fishing can be a destructive industry and tourism is the more positive alternative. Tourism also represents a larger industry in the islands than fishing and provides Ecuadorians employment opportunities that are less ecology damaging than that proffered by a fishing industry.
But in reality ecologists like Captain Watson and others are seeking a balance between preserving nature and the human population that is rapidly expanding in the Galapagos Islands.
However, like Captain Watson, the Galapagos Marine Reserve agrees that the tourism industry must be monitored. It is necessary for protection against illegal fishing activities.
A recent controversy uncovering illegal fishing activity on a major tourist line, Celebrity Xpedition, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises, has sparked concerns. While the company took prompt action in firing the employees involved, one of their competitors, Linblad Expeditions, says that is not enough,
“When someone gets caught with illegal sharks on board, it makes everyone look bad,” says Mary Jo Viederman, Lindblad’s vice president of communications. An even greater concern, as unveiled in recently discovered photos, is suspected illegal activity occurring amongst the smaller operators.
Believing that the majority of the business community wants to address these concerns, Captain Watson and the team at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are hoping that their new study will reveal valuable information that will help to provide solutions.