Fishing has always been an important activity for the subsistence of the residents of the Galapagos
But the first efforts to develop export fisheries from the islands were unsuccessful. In the late 40´s and during the 50´s, cod fishing was commercialized on a small scale to supply the continent with salted and dried fish during the Easter season. Two previous events changed fishing in the Galapagos: the arrival of the freezing facilities at La Predial, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, in the 50´s, and refrigerated ships in the 60´s. In the early 70´s, local fishermen began to sell fish to vessels flying the Panamanian flag. From 1977 to 2001, fishermen fished annual volumes of 18 to 186 tons of cod and mullet to provide the local market with salted fish. During this period, the capture of mullet reaches a third of the annual catch. Other species such as wahoo, yellowfin tuna, grouper, and large sea bass are important in the annual catch. The fishermen also used to ship, legally, shark filets from the Islands to the continent, until the government banned shark fishing in Galapagos waters in 1989.
The hunt for lobster and sea cucumber in the Galapagos depends on divers who descend to 40 meters using the “hookah” system linked to the surface. Fishing for red and green lobster expanded in the 1960´s, thanks to the refrigerant ships that came from the continent and to a cooling plant used by the divers in the smaller boats. Each year, fishermen used to ship 40 to 100 tons of lobster tails from the Islands and today the volumes have decreased to less than 40 tons. In 1988, the fishing of a new product, the sea cucumber (Isostichopus fuscus) began in the mainland of Ecuador; after the boom, by 1991, inland fisheries were in crisis and buyers looked toward the Galapagos. The illegal fishing that began in 1991 was banned in 1992, but in 1994 the government allowed “experimental fishing” for two months, during which a volume of about 12 million sea cucumbers was reaped. After this experiment, authorities banned the fishing of sea cucumbers until 1999. During that year, 796 fishermen harvested 2.7 million sea cucumbers; by the year 2000, the number of fishermen rose to 1229; and in 2002, the harvest jumped to 8.3 million. Since then, the fishing of this product has diminished to an annual harvest of less than 1 million.”