Helmsley Applauds Ecuador's New Marine Protection Measures for Galápagos Islands

The Helmsley Charitable Trust applauded today’s announcement by Ecuador President Rafael Correa about greater protections for the Galápagos Islands’ marine ecosystems. The announcement creates a nearly 15,000-square-mile marine sanctuary around two northern islands, Darwin and Wolf, as well as several “no-take zones” that will protect the iconic waters from the damaging effects of fishing and extractive activities.  

The announcement increases the amount of protected waters surrounding the islands from 7 percent to 33 percent, marking a tremendous accomplishment for the non-governmental organizations, scientists and government partners who have worked together to conserve and restore one of the most pristine ocean systems remaining on Earth.

Located 600 miles off the Ecuadorian mainland, the Galápagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to an extraordinary level of biodiversity both on the islands and in the surrounding marine reserve.

Through underwater exploration, scientific research and community engagement, several Helmsley-supported organizations – including National Geographic, the Charles Darwin Research Station, Conservation International and World Wildlife Fund – have collectively yielded great advances in understanding both the ecological value of this critical ocean system and how to preserve it.

“President Correa’s announcement marks an important occasion for ocean conservation,” said Renu Saini, program officer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Conservation Program. “We are thrilled to see this critical achievement shared by many who have worked collaboratively to secure the health of the Galápagos Islands, and we commend the outstanding commitment of Ecuador’s Government Council for the Galápagos Special Regime, Galápagos National Park, Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Tourism to work together to protect the ecological integrity of one of the most biodiverse places in the ocean.”

Marine protected areas and no-take zones are widely regarded as one of the most effective strategies for conserving ocean systems that are threatened by mounting human pressures.

“This is an exciting milestone in our efforts to preserve our national treasure and protect the incredible biodiversity that generates a significant source of tourism for the Galápagos,” said Eliécer Cruz Bedón, Governor and President of the Government Council for the Galápagos Special Regime. “Species need to protect 10-50 percent of their habitats in order to maintain minimum viable populations. This is why conservation of threatened and endemic species in the Galápagos Marine Reserve combined with the identification and protection of key biodiversity areas is so important. I thank the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their unconditional support as key collaborators in this work.”

With the addition of the new sanctuary and no-take zones, the Galápagos Marine Reserve now protects 39 percent of its mangroves, 30 percent of its seamounts, 28 percent of its corals and 71 percent of its Key Biodiversity Areas.

Read more about the announcement at press.nationalgeographic.com.