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Golden Galapagos Cruises and Volunteers Unite to Keep Galapagos Beaches Clean

On September 30, 2017, close to 900 visitors and locals took to the beaches of the Galapagos Islands to clean up the sites which host unique endemic marine life and bring in close to 200,000 tourists every year. As part of the “Action for the Planet” initiative on behalf of Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment, 876 volunteers collected and sorted garbage at 46 visitor sites along 74 miles of Galapagos coastlines.

At the beginning of the day, the volunteers were outfitted with garbage bags and gloves, and at 8 am they set to work collecting over 9600 pounds of garbage. This was then sorted and sent to either a landfill or recycling centers for proper disposal.

Galapagos National Park director Walter Bustos explained, “Cleaning the coasts and beaches to get rid of the garbage and especially the plastics is confronting one of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity.”

The Galapagos Islands are considered a living classroom, since the unique conditions at the convergence of three oceanic currents and on top of a volcanic hotspot in the Pacific have given rise to life that can only be found here. So distinct are the plant and animal species here that they inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1835. However, with increased tourism and industry growing in the archipelago, reaching around 200,000 visitors per year, there are new threats to the natural balance of this fragile ecosystem.

Not only does litter detract from the natural beauty of the environment, but it also significantly impacts the marine life.

Fortunately, the Galapagos National Park is an active and involved proponent of conservation and carefully manages and regulates tourism in the Galapagos. There are many restrictions about who can start a business or even live in the Galapagos, and it is strictly enforced.

One Galapagos resident, Juliana Garzon, who was also a part of the coastal cleanup, was very happy to see such a showcase of support and environmental activism.

“This allows tourists to have a different view of the Galapagos, in which the community has taken this cleanup as a part of the Islands’ development,” she said.

There are visitor sites on almost all of the islands and islets in the Galapagos archipelago, but this project focused exclusively on the four major inhabited islands of Isabela, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Floreana. There were also crews working on similar cleanup projects on the same day throughout mainland Ecuador.

In cooperation with the project, students of Oswaldo Guayasamin Elementary School in the Galapagos painted a mural that read “+Life -Garbage,” with the support of WildAid and the Galapagos National Park.

Although this effort did not entirely erase the human impact in the Galapagos, it made a big difference and proved that conservation and protection are important values for Ecuadorians and visitors alike.