Galapagos Crisis

Matt James matt.james at SONOMA.EDU
Wed Jan 25 16:50:31 CST 1995

         Subject:    Galapagos Crisis
Dear Fellow Scientists - Very disturbing news is coming out of the Galapagos
Islands in Ecuador. Those of us who care deeply about the islands are trying
to bring the ecological crisis described below to the attention of the
international scientific community. The information below is retyped from a
FAXed letter I recently received from Macarena Green in Quito. She is a
biologist who worked on ascidians and is now a naturalist in the islands. She
can be reached by FAX at Andando Tours in Quito at 593-2-443188.

Please write a letter to the President of Ecuador at the address provided
below. I will cross-post this several times (to TAXACOM, MOLLUSCA, and
PALEONET) so you might get it more than once, and please feel free to post it
to additonal news groups.  I can be reached by e-mail, phone, FAX, and snail

Matthew J. James
Associate Professor and Chairman
Department of Geology
Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park, California 94928 USA
matt.james at
voice: 707-664-2301 (my office)
voice: 707-664-2334 (Dept. office)
FAX: 707-664-2505 or
FAX: 707-664-3012

When you read how not only are the sea cucumbers being impacted but also the
repercussions on the sea lions of Darwin's Islands, I hope you will be moved
to action.
The original FAX is retyped below:
Quito, 12 de Enero de 1995

Quito, January 23, 1995
FAX: 707-664-2505
Attn: Dr. Matt James
From: Macarena Green

Dear Dr. James,

I received your fax in regards the sea cucumber exploitation in the
Galapagos. Following you will find some general information as to how things
have developed.

As you must know since 15th of October of 1994 the sea cucumber fisheries was
legally opened in the Islands. Most of the activities took place in Bolivar
Channel (western side of the Archipelago) and principally the west coast of
Isabela and all around Fernandina Islands. Until the 15 of December there
were over 800 fishermen working on the exploitation of the sea cucumber,
Isostichopus fuscus in that area. It was calculated that each of them was
collecting over 1500 sea cucumbers daily. Besides that these people lived in
small boats on which they carried live chickens, as a source of food,
unwashed vegetables and other introduced organisms that if they landed by
chance on one of the Islands could germinate. It is known that onboard the
boats there were rats, mice and introduced insects. They were cleaning their
bilges and throwing all their garbage overboard. Most of them were anchored
only 20 feet from the shore line of Fernandina Island.

When the cucumber fisheries was opened a limit of 550,000 sea cucumbers, in
three month season, was established. However, in two months it had exceeded
more than 7 million. By the beginning of December reports on the abuse of the
resource went to the different official involved, to the news and to the
press. There were reports that the fishermen were not only collecting sea
cucumbers, but sea horses, snails, sea urchins and black coral. Also, one
fisherman admitted that they had already sent to Japan sea lion penises as a
try out for a new aphrodisiac. The Japanese buyer paid $50 dollars for each
penis. The 15th of December the sea cucumber fisheries was officially closed
until technical and scientific studies were done, due to the abuse that had
occurred in the first two months.

The people involved in such lucrative, yet devastating, enterprise were not
about the accept the new disposition. The first days of January, 1995, they
took over the installations of the Park Service and the Darwin Station. They
kept all the people inside as hostages, including the wives of many of the
workers and children. They threatened to kill all the tortoises in captivity
at the Station and they threatened to start fires on little islands like
South Plaza and Santa Fe, also they demanded that Chantal Blanton and Arturo
Izurieta resign their positions as director of the respective institutions.
It was quite strange to see the total absence of the police and military

In Quito some government officials said that this time they will not let them
get their way, and that the fishermen will have to change their attitude, but
on Friday, January 6 the director of the National Institute of Fisheries went
to Puerto Ayora and offered the fishermen that by the 13th of January they
could start catching sea cucumbers again. All the people involved in tourism
and science in Puerto Ayora got together and decided to take actions in case
this type of activity started again. So in Quito and Guayaquil the minister
of Fisheries met with the fishermen and the people involved and after getting
pressure from all the environmental groups, the association of travel agents,
the association of ecotourism, the association of tour operators in
Galapagos, and the government of Spain. He felt in the position to close the
Pepino (Cucumber) fisheries until October of the present year.

All the groups named above have got together to fight for the same cause. Our
aim is to persuade the government to close all types of industrial fisheries
in the Galapagos, to stop all type of exportation of any resource that comes
from the Islands, to include the marine area within the National Park and be
managed by only one institution and to make the law come true. As you know
there is a master plan to manage the marine resources reserve, but it is
completely ignored.

We have strong reason to beleive that there is someone very powerful involved
in the exploitation and commercialization of sea cucumbers in the Galapagos
waters. It seems the Ecuadorian government is doing very little to fight
against this type of exploitation. however we have noticed that when there is
international pressure their attitude changes.

If you could get together in the States and write a demanding letter to the
President of Ecuador, I think that they may think twice about opening the
Pepino or any other type of fisheries in the Galapagos. In fact I think that
the same letter should be sent to the Ecuadorian press. The address of the
President of Ecuador is:

Arq. Sixto Duran Ballen
Presidente Constitucional de la Republica de Ecuador
Palacia de Gobierna

We are sending information in regards all this matter to Jack Grove. Please
contact him if you need more detailed information or if you need to
coordinate any moves from your side.

It is time that the world demands from the Ecuadorian government the right
type of management for the Galapagos Islands as a whole.

We need international pressure and demands in order to save the Galapagos
Islands. We appreciate your help very much. Let us know if you need more

With best regards,

(Signed) Macarena Green
FAX: 593-2-443188
***End of Original FAX***

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