Iconic Galapagos Islands threatened by longline fishing, other stuff

The Galapagos Islands are iconic for biologists and conservationists, home to a dizzying array of rare and endangered species that inspired Charles Darwin’s seminal work on evolution. Today, the entire marine ecosystem surrounding the islands may be in jeopardy. The militant fishing unions that hold sway over the administration of Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez are asking him to permit longline fishing throughout the Galapagos Marine Reserve, an internationally protected area since 1986. Longline fishing involves laying lines that are miles long, strung with hundreds of thousands of baited hooks. In some cases up to 80 percent of the resulting catch consists of dolphins, sea turtles, sea birds, sea lions, and other (tourist-attracting) marine animals. The situation is sufficiently alarming that UNESCO is sending a delegation to the islands in April and may add them to its “danger list” of ecosystems in immediate peril.