Zoning for proper management of the Marine Reserve.
An important segment of the local population of Galapagos is economically dependent on the Galapagos Marine Reserve, but overfishing of species such as the sea cucumber and lobster alter entire ecosystems and threaten the long-term resource, affecting not only nature in the Galapagos but also the profitability of fisheries.
The division of the territory according to its characteristics and permitted uses allows, on the one hand, the prevention or minimization of the negative effect of human impacts that the Galapagos ecosystems are subjected to, and secondly, a rational use of goods and services that these ecosystems generate for society.
Contrary to the old model, that considered the protected area and the unprotected area independently, the new zoning model takes into account that each area is inter-related to the other, recognizing that the environmental hazards (such as invasive species, pollution …) come from populated areas and that the development of the population (through tourism, fishing, food self-sufficiency, etc.) depends on the conservation of the ecosystems.
Zoning is not rigid; on the contrary, it is subject to changes according to the needs and circumstances that emerge and can be reformulated as appropriate for the better fulfillment of the goal and objectives of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
The zones of the Galapagos Marine Reserve are the following:
1. MULTIPLE USE ZONE
This zone includes fishing, tourism, science, and conservation activities, as well as navigation and maneuvers (Patrol, SAR, etc.). This area will be made up mainly by deep waters that are inside and outside the baseline.
2. LIMITED USE AREA
The uses of this zone are subject to additional restrictions, in order to protect environments, resources, or activities that are important and remarkably sensitive to alterations.
a) Comparison and Protection Subzone.
These zones serve as control areas for the measurement of the effects of human uses, and to study biodiversity and ecology in the absence of human impacts. In these zones only science and education are allowed. Fishing and tourism are not allowed.
b) Conservation and Non-Extractive Use Subzone.
The main use of this subzone is for aquatic tourism, but it also includes science, conservation, and education. In this subzone all or some of the following activities are allowed: snorkeling, scuba diving, boat rides, and whale watching from the boat.
c) Conservation and Extractive and Non-Extractive Use Subzone.
The extractive uses will include artisanal fishing, navigation, education, science, tourism, patrolling, and S.A.R. and military maneuvers. These additional controls and regulations will vary depending on the sensitivity of the site, the state of the resource to be exploited, the needs of other users, etc.
d) Temporary Special Management Areas.
Eventually temporarily managed areas for experimental or recovery purposes may be specially determined on established areas, whose surface area will be defined for each case by the Participatory Management Board regarding the proposal of any sector, that will be approved by AIM.
3. PORT ZONE
This zone corresponds to the waters near the five ports of the Islands (Puerto Ayora, Baltra, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Puerto Villamil, and Puerto Velasco Ibarra). Each zone may have subzones to control, allow, or restrict certain activities.
These subzones may be the following:
a) Experimental Subzone.
This subzone belongs in the temporary subzone category. This is an area that is under a special management regime for experimentation purposes.
b) Recovery Subzone.
This subzone belongs in the temporary subzone category. It is an area that has suffered degradation, for any reason (for example, over-exploitation, pollution, physical damage from tourism, storm damage, El Niño) the PMB can declare and define a recovery zone, with complete protection and/or special rules to help its recovery. The Recovery Zone designation will remain until the PMB decides to reverse it.
For centuries, Latin American fishermen noticed warm water currents that appeared every few years, always toward the end of December. The consequences were devastating. It would rain like never before, the water temperature would change and many marine animals would die of malnutrition. This event was called El Niño (the child Jesus), because it began during Christmas.
Today we know much more about its causes, although its effects are not less dramatic.
The phenomenon is due to the differences between both sides (East and West) of the tropical Pacific:
The water in the West Pacific Ocean, near Australia and Indonesia, is 8 degrees warmer than that recorded in the East, on the coast of Latin America. Therefore, the climate is more humid and it rains a lot more in the West than in the Eastern Pacific.
Every few years, there is a weakening of the winds that keep the flow of the major ocean currents, so that warm water masses start flowing from the West to the East Pacific (toward the Galapagos). The waters in the West cool off, and the waters in the East heat up. The Peru or Humboldt current that brings cold water from the south, weakens, allowing the water to heat up more.
When the water temperature changes, its salinity also changes, altering marine ecosystems, as all marine plants and animals are very sensitive to salinity.
While this occurs, the air also changes. The atmospheric pressure rises in the East and drops in the West, changing winds and the rain. In the East, in Latin America, there is an unusual increase in rainfall, while major droughts occur in Asia and Oceania. When El Niño ends, the heavy rains give way to severe droughts.
The events usually occur every two to eight years and can last up to 18 months. The last two El Niño events of great intensity were in 1982-83 and 1997-98.
In Galapagos, the effects of El Niño on marine species are particularly noteworthy. In 1983 for example, the population of Galapagos penguins, an endemic and endangered bird species, fell by 83%. Almost half the population of flightless cormorants, unique in the world, died.
Between 45% and 70% of marine iguanas died, according to their location. Many sea lions also died, especially abandoned youth, additionaly due to skin diseases.
In 1997-98, El Niño returned with the same force. Scenes of dead sea lions and marine iguanas were common, and their numbers could have well gone down to half. The penguin count was the lowest in history, and many species of marine birds did not reproduce.
On land, the effects are also dramatic, with the proliferation of certain plants due to the rains, especially vines, and the increase of populations of certain birds, some of which collapse shortly after the event.
El Niño events of different intensities have occurred recently in 1982-83, 1986-1987, 1991-1992, 1993, 1994, 1997-1998, 2002-2003, 2004-2005, and 2006-2007.
Despite great technological advances in meteorology, the arrival or magnitude of El Niño still cannot be accurately predicted.