The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided at its 34th session in Brazil last week to remove Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands from itsList of World Heritage in Danger.
The committee, which originally placed the archipelago on the list in 2007 because of threats from invasive species, deregulated tourism and overfishing, and said in a statement that “significant progress has been made by Ecuador in addressing these problems.”
“The committee welcomes the government’s continuing efforts to strengthen conservation measures, especially in dealing with introduced species,” the release stated.
While environmental groups acknowledge the efforts of the Ecuadorian government to protect the islands, they say a lot of work remains to defend Ecuador’s famous marine refuge. Some warn that the removal from the list comes too soon.
Tim Badman, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Heritage program, called the move “premature.” Last week, the IUCN recommended that the islands remain on the endangered sites list.
“Threats from tourism, invasive species and overfishing are still factors, and the situation in the Galápagos remains critical,” Badman said.
Sea Shepherd, a marine environmental protection group that has worked in the Galápagos, said the tourism sector is better regulated than in previous years and that several projects to minimize the expansion of invasive species on the islands are ongoing.
But they, too, urge that vigilance and management of the Galápagos remain high.
“Galápagos is our line in the sand,” the group said in a statement. “Being removed from the list is not sufficient or permanent, and efforts to protect the Galápagos must not slow down. Tourism, population growth, introduced plant and animal species, as well as illegal fishing still present serious threats if not managed properly.”