Galapagos Tourism and Endangered Species

Introduction

The Galapagos archipelago is renowned for its unique end fearless wildlife and has become a dream for every naturalist, with its unique flora end fauna. The archipelago spreads out over 50,000 square kilometre of the Pacific ocean, it’s 1000kilometer west of Ecuador and is comprised of 13 main islands end six smaller ones. The landscape is barren end volcanic but has a unique haunting beauty. The highest point in the chain is the Volcano Wolf. The islands renowned bird end marine life includes albatrosses, penguins, boobies, turtles, giant tortoises, iguanas, sea lions, whales end dolphins. The islands were first inhabited by a few settlers and ware used as a penal colony, the last of which closed in 1959.

The archipelago became a national park in 1959. Today, the park is protected from haphazard tourism by strict limits on where visitors are allowed to go, and by the fact that visitors are only obliged to visit the national park when they are accompanied by a certified naturalist tour guide trained by the national park service. Until the 1960s, the tourism industry in Galapagos was very small and limited to a few adventure travellers from North America and Europe, as well as some border tourism from Colombia and Peru. In 1969, the cruise ship “Lina A” began to offer tours to the Galapagos Islands, and a new tourist boom began. Today, the fragile environment of the Galapagos faces a surge of new tourism and immigration that threatens to destroy the environmental purity of the volcanic islands, wipe out entire species of plants end animals.

Positive impacts

The government collects money in an indirect way, like for instance income taxes. All the income taxes go directly to the national park service to be distributed among all the Ecuadorian parks. The Galapagos Islands receives the biggest portion of the income, about fifty percent of the total. Roughly twenty-five percent of the income for the Galapagos go to finance its tourism program, including operational casts for ticket sales, park guards end petrol boost operators.

As mentioned before the fragile environment of the Galapagos faces a big flood of new tourism. The islands currently receive an average of 60,000 visitors per year. Because of the big tourist boom the entrance fee to the Galapagos has increased dramatically to US$100. This money can be used for overall conservation programs end activities, such as park guards end park maintenance.

This of course is a positive impact for the Galapagos Islands, because there is an amount of money that they can use for the improvement of the environment of the island.

Tourism has the potential to increase public appreciation of the environment and spread awareness of environmental problems when it brings people into closer contact with nature and the environment. This confrontation may raise awareness of the value of nature and lead to environmentally conscious behaviour and activities to preserve the environment. The tourism industry can play a very important role in providing environmental information among tourists of the environmental consequences of their actions.

Another positive impact on the environment of the Galapagos islands is that tourism helps to improve the environmental quality of areas. Locals became aware that tourists like to visit places that are attractive to them, without rubbish and other sewage. So special attention has been given to keep the environment of the Galapagos islands clean, and this way attracting more visitors.

Maximize positive impacts

The Contributions to government revenues has been maximized by trying to get instead of fifty percent, a higher percentage of the money that is going to the Ecuadorian parks. Also the entrance fees are raised for the tourist, not dramatically but with 5 percent. There will be soma tourist who decide to go to a different place to spend their holiday. because the entrance fee is to high. And with a higher entrance fee and higher percentage, the amount will be bigger and the government can do more for the environment of the Galapagos Islands.

The Environmental awareness has been maximized by as mentioned before in the negative impacts, improvement of the education of employees. By giving more and a better education to the employees and useful information material to every tourist who visits one of the Galapagos Islands, the environment of the islands has been improved.

The environmental awareness has also been maximized by giving education programmes to the tourists is about the impacts of tourism on the environment so they are even better aware of the consequences of their behaviour.

Tourist and tourism-related businesses consume an enormous quantity of goods ands services; by moving them toward those that are produced and provided in an environmentally sustainable way, could have an enormous positive impact on the environment.

Negative environmental impacts

Because of the increased tourism on the Galapagos Islands a lot of Ecuadorians have taken advantage of employment opportunities on the island, and have seen tourist dollars as the key to a better life. Because of this immigration from the Ecuadorian mainland, the local population has increased from 6.119 to about 14.000 in the last eight years and is growing at a steady rata of 12 percent per year.

As a logical result the pressure on several resources are increasing on the islands. For example fresh water, sand and seafood. Fresh water is one of the most critical natural resources. Because of the increasing population of the Galapagos islands the need for fresh water is also increasing.

Not only the natives and immigrants cause a shortage of fresh water but also the tourism industry generally overuses water resources, for hotels, swimming pools and personal use of water. This can result in water shortages and degradation of water supplies, as well as generating a greater volume of waste water.

Apart from draining precious resources such as water, the natives and immigrants of the islands are contributing to its ecological demise through their entrepreneurial efforts. Natives and immigrants know there can be gained a lot of money and are very willing to provide tourists in everything they like to have during their holiday. They have turned remote fishing villages into a string of discos, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops. They have converted plants and animals into souvenirs.

For example coral, a coral reef is among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet and it has many uses ranging from medicinal purposes to food supplies to protecting coastlines from storms and erosion. Because of this the coral became an endangered habitat. Although coral is only covering 0,17 percent of the ocean floor, coral provides a home for one quarter of all marine species. But still local divers are devastating coral formations and turn their catch into gift shops where the coral is sold as a very popular item among the tourist. A lot of the locals don’t know of what great value the coral is and just sell it without thinking about the consequences.

Although the seas around the islands have been a protected marine reserve since 1986, illegal fishing continues, day and night and particularly shark-fishing. Because of demand for shark meat and for fins used in shark’s fin soup, sharks have come under heavy pressure and the demand for shark fins has very deadly results: the nets catch all kinds of animals, including Galapagos penguins, dolphins, flightless cormorants, sea lions and the sea iguanas. Many tourists are astounded by the tranquillity of the islands and the animals. Unfortunately, visitors have taken to feeding many animal species, which has proven extremely detrimental. Many animals became dependent upon being fed and they were unable to locate their natural food sources. Sea lions that populate highly visited diving areas and beaches have recently taken to chasing tourist who gat too close. Scientists have recorded marked increases in their nervousness and aggressiveness. People from Ecuador who have flooded the islands to work in the tourism industry generally have no knowledge of conservation. Although it is strictly forbidden to leave trash on the islands or in the waters, such disposal still occurs, for instance they dump refuse overboard, including the emptying of sewage tanks by tourist ships right into the water. They also allowed turtles to eat plastic bags and catch lobsters when they are carrying eggs or is too small, causing serious over fishing. Most tourist who visit the Galapagos Islands do not stay in one of the local hotels, but choose to stay on a cruise ship. These cruise ships tours usually from three days to two weeks and visit between five and eleven islands. During these trips the ships often drop anchor over a reef causing tremendous amounts of damage that takes years to repair.

When people first arrived in the Galapagos there ware seven different species of rice rat, descendants of the only terrestrial mammals to have survived the ocean journey. Today only two of the species remain, each on a single island, end each unable to live on any island where the black rat has taken hold. The Galapagos’ has witnessed the extinction of three of the 14 races of giant tortoises, and only a single individual remains of a fourth. Feral pigs, goats, dogs and cats, introduced by immigrants, have all been detrimental to the native fauna.

Newly introduced fire ants, many of which are transported on planes and boats, could upset the delicate balance of the insect population, which in turn serves the diet of many birds. Visitors to the islands unknowingly contribute to the spread of seeds, spores end insects from one island to the next on their clothes end soles of their shoes. In the last five years, more than 100 new plant species have been introduced to the islands, many inadvertently by cargo boats and tourists. These include aggressive species such as leafy green lantana, which overwhelms native plants, and the guave tree, which forms a canopy that prevents the sun from nurturing the indigenous seedlings. This shows that immigrants introduced all kinds of animals and plants which not belong on the islands, and what might have caused the extinction of several races of animals..

Minimize negative environmental impacts

To minimize this impact the government inform the tourist about the effect their holiday has on the islands. So before they make the holiday, they should be informed about all the risks end consequences their trip has for the Galapagos Islands. The tourist only hears positive news at the travel agency and not what the consequences for the place is where they go on holiday. It is good for them to hear all the effects where the islands have to cope with before they have been there.

To minimize this negative impact, the government has designated 45 approved visitor sites around the archipelago. Tourists are required to stay on marked pathways at most sites and they must all be accompanied by a trained naturalist guide. Despite these regulations there are still a lot of tourists who cannot cope with the rules. UK for instance there are many trails weaving through nesting colonies of sea birds. Tourists often make the mistake of startling the birds when attempting to gat close, causing them to fly from their nests and leaving an egg or chick exposed. A young chick will die within thirty minutes if exposed to the equatorial sun. As the example shows. the natural habitat of the animals can be degraded by tourism leisure activities. This kind of wildlife viewing brings a lot stress for the animals.

This Jack of knowledge has been improved by giving lectures to new employees (especially) from the mainland. These employees can teach their knowledge about conservation again to the tourist who are visiting the Galapagos islands.

To minimize the illegal fishing the government should have a better system to control all the fisherman in the marine of the Galapagos Islands.

Also the restaurants should be under supervision by the government. The seafood that is offered in the restaurants should be checked, for example; where the restaurants buy their seafood, because maybe an owner of a restaurant catches the fish illegal.

The beginning of a solution is to inform the locals better of the great value of the endangered species they are selling. Maybe when they know better, that coral is not only a habitat for a lot of organism but also a natural protection against storms and coastal erosion, they are more aware of the can sequences of the products that they are selling and might consider to aim their money by selling other products.

With every coral-item a tourist buys there should be a leaflet given to the buyer, to let the tourist know how many organisms and animals died because of their will to have a piece of the Galapagos Island. “A memory can also be kept alive in your remembrance instead of taking everything home

Conclusion

Seen the previous facts we are able to conclude that in the case of the Galapagos islands there are much more negative than positive environmental impacts caused by tourism. The main positive impacts were: the Contributions to government revenues and the Environmental awareness. These positive impacts have been maximized by: the improvement of the education of employees and tourists, by moving the general products toward those that are produced and provided in an environmentally sustainable way and by trying to get instead of fifty percent, a higher percentage of the money that is going to the Ecuadorian parks.

The main negative impacts were: the damages because of the increased tourism on the Galapagos Islands, the fresh water shortage, the loss of animal life, alteration of ecosystems by tourist activities, the introduction of exotic species and ecological demise through the entrepreneurial efforts for the locals. These negative impacts have been minimized by: information towards tourists about all the risks end consequences of their behaviour, the introduction of a designated 45 approved visitor sites around the archipelago, better system to control all the fisherman in the marine of the Galapagos Islands and to inform the locals better of the great value of the endangered species they are selling.

The Galapagos island have to be very careful, that the positive impacts don’t change in negative ones. That’s why it’s very important to maintain the positive ones and try to minimize the negative ones. For the negative impacts it is especially important to educate and inform tourists and locals about the consequences of their behaviour and how they are able to behave without damaging the environment to keep it undamaged.