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Protecting Galapagos Biodiversity through the Cargo and Quarantine Initiative

WildAid’s continued work with the Galapagos Cargo and Quarantine Initiative, an endeavor committed to protecting the Galapagos Island’s unique biodiversity from exotic species and diseases introduced via food and product shipments from mainland Ecuador, has recently resulted in the streamlining of off-loading procedures at cargo dock facilities on two of the islands as well as a national regulation that requires Galapagos cargo ship owners to renew and classify their ships according to international standards within a one-year timeframe.

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Despite widespread awareness that maritime transport of organic cargo is a prime vector for new introductions to the Galapagos Islands, insufficient inspection and quarantine procedures at ports of departures have scarcely improved in the last decade and result in the entry of unknown numbers of pests. Shipping containers are frequently open cardboard boxes, sacks, and large plastic bags, ideal for contamination by insects, rodents, seeds, and bacteria.

With a growing population and rising numbers of tourists, the demand for imported food to Galapagos continues; between June 2010 and June 2011 alone, potato imports increased 141%, while there was a comparable 128% increase in the import of 13 common fruit and vegetable products.

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WildAid joined forces with the Galapagos Cargo and Quarantine Initiative in 2009 to target inadequate loading and unloading facilities, insufficient inspection procedures, and unsanitary shipping conditions. By working closely with the Government of Ecuador and the Galapagos Governance Council, WildAid is helping to create a centralized maritime shipping port in Guayaquil, one of Ecuador’s major port cities and anticipated site of the inspection and delivery of approximately 75% of all organic products shipped to the archipelago. A training program is also being developed with the United States Department of Agriculture to build local capacity among Galapagos Inspection and Quarantine System inspectors at departure and arrival ports.

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WildAid is also collaborating with Galapagos tour operator Lindblad Expeditions to implement the Operation to Prevent Unwanted Species (OPUS)-Clean Potato Project at the new Guayaquil shipping facility, which will deliver millions of pounds of sanitized potatoes to the islands, free from invasive pests. Once the potato project has been adapted to the general market demand, it will be expanded to include other high-risk organic projects such as plantains, carrots, and mangoes. WildAid also plans to conduct an assessment of the flow and distribution of cargo from the mainland to Galapagos, and provide a shipping projection for the next 50 years based on current trends in supply and demand.

Learn more about WildAid’s activities in the Galapagos Islands here.