Sea lions belong to animals affected by the ecological accident, oil spill from the tanker Jessica. PHOTO– REUTERS
The global conservation organisation WWF called on the Ecuadorean government to urgently enforce its own laws on protection of the oil–threatened Galapagos islands. And it said the current cleanup operation around the islands following the wreck of an Ecuadorean tanker two weeks ago could only be the beginning of efforts to ensure that the unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos could survive in the future.
Ecuador, which administers the islands 1,000 km (600 miles) off its Pacific coast, should „urgently approve and apply a series of regulations to ensure effective implementation of the Special Conservation Law for the archipelago“, it declared.
The WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature based at Gland near Geneva, has been active for nearly half a century in conservation on the islands — where Charles Darwin in 1835 found much of the evidence for his then revolutionary theory of evolution.
The WWF hailed the Ecuadorean Special Law, adopted over two years ago, as a great achievement of the national government. The law provides for the creation of a marine protected area within a 40– nautical– mile radius of the islands, which would ban industrial fishing and restrict tourism and immigration.
But, the WWF said, the necessary regulations to apply the law had been delayed.
The wreck of the tanker, the Jessica, „has reminded the world how fragile the archipelago is“, said the WWF‘s Peter Kramer, former president of the Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos. He said that only the fast application of the law, especially on fisheries, tourism, immigration and quarantine, „will ensure that today‘s accident will not be tomorrow‘s disaster,“ Kramer declared.
WWF shipping expert Sian Pullen said the body was calling on all governments to identify particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs) in their waters and register them with the United Nations‘ International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
„Applied to the Galapagos, PSSAs would help reduce the risk of accidents involving tankers such as the Jessica, since the passage of ships into ports and harbours of the islands, or transiting them would be specifically regulated,“ she added.
Environmentalists say shipping companies have until now resisted such restrictions which would involve adding up to two days‘ journey for vessels travelling westwards from the Pacific coast of northern South America.