Four countries formalize “Ocean Highway” in the Galapagos Islands

Four countries formalize “Ocean Highway” in the Galapagos Islands
Four countries formalize “Ocean Highway” in the Galapagos Islands

Last Friday, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso signed the decree to officially create the new Galapagos Marine Reserve, called Hermandad or “Brotherhood.” The reserve expands the total protected marine area in the archipelago by 45%, from 133,000 km2 (51,351 sq miles) to 193,000 km2 (74,517 sq miles, two-and-half times the size of the state of Maryland). 

The ceremonial signing of the decree took place in the Galapagos Islands, with the presence of Ivan Duque, President of Colombia, and the Foreign Ministers of both Panama and Costa Rica. Former United States President, Bill Clinton, witnessed the signing. Various other dignitaries from the US and Ecuador, as well as key Galapagos institutions, were also present, including renowned marine biologist and conservationist Doctor Sylvia Earle.

“There are places that have made a mark on the history of humanity and today we have the honor of being in one of those places. These islands that welcome us have taught us many things about ourselves. So, instead of acting as the absolute masters of these lands and seas, shouldn’t we act as their protectors?” stated President Lasso.

It’s no coincidence the new reserve extends to the northeast, since the objective is to create an “ocean highway” connection with Costa Rica’s Cocos Islands — a migratory route used by millions of sea turtles, whales, sharks and rays — thereby joining two marine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Following their declarations at COP26 in Glasgow late last year, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica have all committed to working together to create a huge Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor between their countries.

The decree signed on Friday undoubtedly safeguards the life-affirming wildlife experiences visitors appreciate in the Galapagos Islands. They will enjoy and cherish the same marine natural encounters — whether through coastal explorations with dinghies, kayaks, stand-up-paddle boards or glass-bottom boats, snorkeling or SCUBA diving — for decades to come.

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