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  • Writer's pictureFranklin Vega

Galapagos Hermandad marine reserve: a year without a management plan

The control and surveillance of the new marine protected area require an investment of 46 million dollars during the first five years. The issuance date of the inter-ministerial management agreement is not known, despite the fact that the Presidential decree established a period of one month, which ended in May.

Map of the sea of Ecuador, with the continental and insular Exclusive Economic Zones (Galapagos). Source: Private file.

On January 14, 2021, President Guillermo Lasso issued Executive Decree No. 319 ordering the creation of the new Hermandad Marine Reserve. This is the second marine protected area in the Galapagos, covering 60,000 square kilometers: 30,000 for absolute protection and 30,000 called responsible fishing, in which fishing is allowed.

What are the implications of this responsible fishing area? This question must be answered in the Hermandad Management Plan. So far, the only certainty is the prohibition of the use of longlines, which is a questionable fishing technique due to its high percentage of incidental catches.

Despite the fact that Decree 319 established a period of one month after the declaration, for the issuance of the Management Plan, this document has not yet materialized. The decree literally says:

“Within one month after the declaration of the new marine reserve, the Ministry of the Environment, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility. The Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the Ministry of Defense, must issue the management plan for the Hermandad Marine Reserve, and the other tools for the management of the new protected area through an inter-ministerial agreement within the framework of the current regulations”.

The only official document is the Ministerial Agreement No. MAATE-2022-041, issued by the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAATE) establishes the limits of Hermandad by defining 7 points or geographic coordinates. In addition, it is determined that the execution of this "will be in charge of the Undersecretariat of Natural Heritage, the National Directorate of Protected Areas and other Forms of Conservation, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park, in coordination with the Governing Council of the Special Regime for Galapagos ”.

Therefore, it can be taken that the date of issuance of Agreement 041 isthe official birth certificate of the Hermandad: April 14, 2022, and that by May 2022 the inter-ministerial agreement should be issued with the participation of the five Ministries mentioned in the Executive decree of its creation.

The sources consulted have not provided a date for the publication of the Management Plan or the Interministerial Management Agreement. What has been produced are announcements of the meetings to "fine-tune" the document with the participation of some of the actors such as the National Federation of Artisanal Fisheries Cooperatives of Ecuador (FENACOPEC), which was published on Twitter on December 11, 2022, stating that they are working on the regulations for the Management Plan: "We are working and contributing to the construction of regulations for the Management Plan of the Hermandad Reserve, not only for fishermen from the Galapagos but also those from the continental part."

Photo taken from the Twitter account of the National Federation of Artisanal Fishing Cooperatives of Ecuador (FENACOPEC).

The text is accompanied by a photo of the Minister of the Environment: Gustavo Manrique. In other words, is there already a Management Plan and are they working on the regulations? Two sources consulted in the MAATE, who requested that their names be withheld, denied the existence of the final version of the Hermandad Management Plan but specified that it is still under construction. For their part, representatives of the fishing sector, who also do not want to be mentioned in public, asserted that there are several inconsistencies in the document.

For its part, MAATE, in a tweet on November 14, almost a month before the FENACOPEC tweet, reported they made public the Management Plan of the Hermandad Marine Reserve. From Galapagos, the Undersecretary of Natural Heritage, Glenda Ortega, spoke about the participatory process that has been carried out to build the Plan, pointing out "that it is the most important technical tool to manage this new protected area."

The Biogennia consulting team, in charge of preparing the Management Plan, listed the components and management programs of the Plan: Planning; Control and Surveillance; Biodiversity Management; Public Use, Tourism, and Recreation; Communication, Education, and Environmental Participation. Biogennia is a Guayaquil company hired by MAATE to prepare the proposal for the Management Plan.

The promotion of Hermandad Reserve doesn’t exist at sea but is promoted in the media

Screenshot of the Twitter account of the General Secretariat of Communication of the Presidency of Ecuador (link).

Despite the fact that the Hermandad is not implemented at sea, its image is used in all possible acts of the Government and MAATE. The most recent was during the swearing in of the President of Brazil, when the General Secretariat of Communication of the Presidency of Ecuador published a video with the "iconic" image of the signing of the Hermandad Decree with President Lasso and Gustavo Manrique, Minister of the Environment ( Photo).

The Hermandad Marine Reserve has been created, but its administration has not yet been established. Why not? One of the answers relates to the authority over the sustainable fishing area. The Minister of the Environment, on the day of its creation, confirmed that President Lasso ordered that the MAATE be the entity in charge of all Hermandad; however, it is known that this is not fully accepted by other sectors, who have insisted that the Ministry of Production, as the governing body for fishing, be the authority in the section defined as the "responsible fishing" zone.

In addition, one of the fishermen's unions that use longlines have stated on several occasions that they have not formed part of the core group that analyzes the Management Plan.

These divergences of opinion appear part of the causes that are delaying the promulgation of the Management Plan. However, if Decree 319 is reviewed, in its article it says: "It will be the National Environmental Authority, through the Undersecretary of Heritage, and the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park who will oversee, manage and administer the Hermandad Marine Reserve, as part of the National System of Protected Natural Areas”.

USD 46 millones se requieren para proteger el mar

In late November 2022, a comment among longline fishermen in Manta regarded the presence of Costa Rican industrial fishing vessels north of the Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone. That is, near the Hermandadarea.

According to this commentary, it could not be verified whether or not the Costa Rican fishing boats were fishing near Hermandad.

To the north of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) are located the 60,000 square kilometers of Hermandad "only" representing 45% more than the total of the 133,000 km2 of GMR. But when analyzing the location of Hermandad, it is clear that the effective control of this area requires a high amount of investment in both tools and personnel.

New vessels with the capacity to patrol the north of the Archipelago and the use of new technologies, such as drones to monitor wider areas of the sea, are needed. Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park (PNG), in an interview prior to the Hermandad's declaration, confirmed that with the current marine control infrastructure it is impossible for the PNG to achieve adequate control in such distant areas. In addition, the operating costs of the vessels that currently operate in the GMR are high due to the time they have already been in service.

In a draft summary of the Management Plan to which Bitácora Ambiental had access, the amount required for the control and surveillance of the Hermandad is 46 million dollars, which will be used to purchase boats, equipment and hire personnel and to operate the management of the protected marine area during the first five years.

Part of that amount should come from a debt-for-conservation swap, as explained in this note. But in the document that was accessed, no references were found on this subject.

Map with the reference of the fishing sites of the tuna fleets (blue circles) and the longliner (tomato or orange dots) in the Exclusive Economic Zones. Image: Bitácora Ambiental.


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