Fishing effort dynamics around the Galápagos Marine Reserves as depicted by AIS data

Photo by ©timhe _ iNaturalist.

The waters around the Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR) are important fishing grounds for authorized artisanal vessels fishing within the reserve as well as for national and foreign industrial fleets operating in the wider Ecuadorian Insular Exclusive Economic Zone (IEEZ). Although it was not originally designed for fisheries management, Automatic Identification System (AIS) data provides useful, open access, near real-time and high-resolution information that allows for increased monitoring, particularly around Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. This study uses AIS data provided by Global Fishing Watch to assess the spatial distribution and seasonal dynamics of fishing effort by vessel flag within the GMR and the IEEZ from 2012 to 2021. Based on kernel density estimation analysis, we determinate the core-use areas (50%) and spatial extent (95%) of fishing activities by fleets (Ecuadorian and foreign), gear types and seasons (warm, from December to May; and cold, from June to November). Our results show that the Ecuadorian fleet recorded the most observed fishing hours in the study area, with 32,829 hours in the IEEZ and 20,816 hours within the GMR. The foreign flags with the most observed fishing hours in the IEEZ were Panama (3,245 hours) and Nicaragua (2,468.5 hours), while in the GMR were the ‘Unknown flag’ (4,991.4 hours) and Panama (133.7 hours). Vessels fished employing different fishing gears, but the waters of the GMR and IEEZ were mostly targeted by tuna purse-seiners and drifting longlines. The spatial distribution of the fishing effort exhibits marked seasonal variability, likely influenced by seasonal migrations of target species such as tunas (e.g., Thunnus albacares, T. obesus and Katsuwonus pelamis), marlins (e.g., Makaira nigricans) and sharks (e.g., Alopias pelagicus). The collection and use of this type of spatial and seasonal information is an essential step to understand the dynamics of fishing activities in national waters and improve fisheries management, particularly in less studied areas and fisheries.

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!