Thursday, October 9, 2008
Threats to the Galapagos Island
[Photo credit: Steve Stroud / LA Times]
Yesterday's Los Angeles Times carried a story about the Ecuadorian government's attempts to protect the increasingly fragile environment of the Galapagos Islands by placing new limits on the numbers of its citizens who can live there. You can see this article at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-galapagos8-2008oct08,0,363527.story .
This move was apparently prompted by UNESCO's designation of the islands in 2007 as being "in danger," a status that was upheld this year as well. The problem is not only the increase in the human population, which has doubled in the past ten years, or the rapid increase in the number of tourists who visit the islands, which has trebled in roughly the same period of time. Rather, with increased human traffic comes stowaways as well: non-native species of animals such as goats, rats, cats, mosquitoes and fire ants, all of whom hitch rides on the boats and planes that bring new residents and tourists, and many of whom prey on local species and threaten to alter the unique ecological balance of these islands.
The Ecuadorian government feels that UNESCO's designation is unnecessarily alarmist, and claims that they had already taken action prior to restrict human migration to the islands prior to UNESCO's report. In regard to tourism, however, one could argue that the prohibitively expensive costs of travelling to the Galapagos promotes a different type of "survival of the fittest," or at least that of the most financially fit. This article points out that it costs in the neighborhood of $2,000-$3,000 for a typical four-to-seven day boat tour of the islands, excluding airfare to the islands.