Galapagos: Tourism vs Conservation

Tourists are continuously searching for exotic destinations to visit, and when they look at Ecuador, Galapagos fulfills all their requirements. The Galapagos archipelago has not only seen an increase in tourists visiting, but as the industry has grown, so have the number of illegal immigrants hoping to carve a living for themselves within the flourishing market. Authorities in Ecuador have been fighting illegal immigration aggressively lately, which is just one more problem on the list of struggles when it comes to Galapagos.

Firstly, the growing number of tourists and human population on the Galapagos Islands seems to have desensitized the animals that live here to human interaction. This poses a great threat to conservation, as human interaction, with many visitors not adhering to the rules and feeding certain animals, tames the animals and can lead to them not fending for themselves anymore. An increase in residents and creating an infrastructure to accommodate the great numbers of visitors and locals often sees animals and humans crossing paths, as encroachment on their territory forces animals to either co-exist or find alternative places stay. Human activity also plays a massive role in marine life.

Fish are being depleted at a rapid pace from the ocean, as locals try to keep up with demand, and the increasing number of vessels transporting visitors to Galapagos contributes to pollution through the oil and sewerage that come off the ships. Alien animal species such as rats, mosquitoes and cats are also brought to the island by ships, creating a risk for the indigenous animals.

To fight some of the problems facing Galapagos, authorities have begun to weed out illegal immigrants by the thousands, deporting them back to their countries. Cutting back on activities such as deep sea fishing, scuba diving and horse riding activities have also been taken in consideration, however as tourism is a vital industry for the economy of Ecuador and the Galapagos islands, they are unable to turn visitors away. Instead they will be increasing the entrance fee for foreign visitors, trying to put an end to illegal fishing practices and beginning projects to replenish the ocean life.

Conservationists fear that some of the damage already done is irreversible, and UNESCO has added Galapagos to the “In Danger” list of World Heritage Sites. It is hoped that by reducing the population on Galapagos and taking as much strain off the wildlife and nature as possible, Galapagos will survive to remain one of the most beautiful and exotic destinations in the world.