Shark sanctuary in Galapagos

The Darwin and Wolf sanctuary extends around these islands in northern Galapagos, covering 40,000 square kilometers. Along with other 21 smaller conservation areas a total of 48,000 square kilometers will be protected, announced Ecuador's president Rafael Correa on Monday. The project was developed in collaboration with the National Geographic Foundation.

The area is famous for having the highest abundance of sharks known. More than 34 species including the hammerhead shark and the filter-feeding whale shark can be found in the shores of the Galapagos Islands.

As shark populations are in a steep decline around the world, environment minister Daniel Ortega Pacheco said these waters "are precious not just for Ecuadorians but for the whole balance of our ocean systems"

It is also important as a National Geographic study in 2015 calculated tourism, specifically shark sightseeing represents $236 millions per year in the Galapagos economy. Instead a dead sharks brings on average only $158 for the fisherman.

With the announcement the Galapagos Marine Reserve will have 33% of its territory protected, a tremendous increase knowing only 0.8% was being protected since 2001. Additionally 59% of Galapagos National Park will also be under protection for the recovery of species and ecosystems.

These areas will now be no-take zones meaning no extractive activity (fishing, hunting, logging, mining, and drilling) will be allowed This is important because it gives ecosystems the capacity to recover form the dangers caused by illegal fishing and climate change.

In his speech president Correa highlighted: "The government of Ecuador supports the creation of a marine sanctuary to leave an inheritance to our children and our children's children; a wonderful world where as many species as possible are preserved for the enjoyment and knowledge of future generations.”

Situated about 1000 km west of the Ecuadorian mainland the Galapagos Islands were named as a World Heritage Site because of its unique biodiversity and their part in inspiring Charles Darwin's evolution theory in 1978. Twenty years later, in 1998 the Galapagos Marine Reserve received the same status.  It is the second largest protected area in the world after the Great Barrier Reef  National Park in Australia.

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