Ecuador protects marine life with underwater ‘highway’ – Grist

It’s Monday, January 24, and Ecuador is extending protection to waters near the Galapagos Islands.

The Pacific waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are a sanctuary for thousands of marine species, including penguins, whales, dolphins and sea turtles. But many animal habitats extend far beyond the islands’ shores, and the Ecuadorian government is taking note.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso this month announced a massive expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, adding more than 23,000 square miles to the region’s protected waters. Originally proposed at the UN climate conference last November, half of the new protected area – called the Hermandad Marine Reserve – will be closed to all fishing, while the other half will ban longline fishing. , a destructive practice that involves dragging a very long line with thousands of baited hooks behind a boat.

According to Gustavo Manrique, Ecuador’s Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, the expanded area will help create safe passage for migrating fish, sharks and other marine species. “It’s like creating a new highway for them to travel on,” he told The Washington Post.

Ecuador’s actions come amid growing global calls for ocean conservation in response to plastic pollution, acidifying waters, warming temperatures and other threats. While the goal of conservationists to preserve 30% of the oceans by 2030 is still far away – only 6.1% is currently protected – many countries are stepping up their conservation efforts. The expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador is part of a partnership with Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica to coordinate protection of the Pacific coast.

Such efforts could not only protect marine ecosystems, but also safeguard food supplies. According to a 2020 study, a mere 5% expansion of marine protected areas worldwide could increase annual fish catches by up to 12 million metric tons.

Environmental Defenders, The politiciansand celebrities applauded Ecuador’s efforts, noting Galapagos’ status as an icon for conservation. “Our existence depends on the health of the ocean”, tweeted Sylvia Earlethe renowned oceanographer, who praised Lasso “and all who support increased wildlife protection in the ocean surrounding the Galapagos Islands.”

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