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Satellite Monitoring of Vessels Soon to be a Reality in the Galapagos Marine Reserve

Edgar Muñoz, GNPS Park Director, Fernando Ortiz and Oswaldo Rosero, local representatives of the conservation organizations Conservation International and WildAid, respectively, recently met to review advances of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) project for the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).

Currently, the project is in its final phase and over the next four months, we will procure and install the equipment and software required for the operation of the control center located at the GNPS Headquarters.

In summary, the VMS project involves the placement of tracking equipment on every vessel greater than 20 metric tons that operates within the GMR. Signals are sent on an hourly basis via satellite to the National Naval Satellite Center in Guayaquil which then immediately relays the coordinates to the GNPS control center. The coordinates are digitally plotted on a large computer screen where Park Wardens are able to monitor the movement of vessels throughout the 133,000km reserve.

The technology is a highly cost effective management tool as it allows the Park Service to monitor no-take areas; assign and monitor tourism itineraries; improve control of cargo and foreign vessels entering the GMR; allow a rapid response in the event of a disaster; and can help prevent the possible collision of large vessels i.e. fuel tankers in shipping lanes. The technology can be applied for science as it can be used to monitor migratory species and for data collection of changes in water temperature, currents and atmospheric pressure.

The project has required both significant technical and financial investments by both Conservation International and WildAid.