Monday, November 3, 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Galápagos

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

You've heard me say it before; expedition cruising is about exploring our vanishing planet.

Apart from the well-publicised melting of the polar ice cap, wildlife, cultures and landscapes elsewhere are also threatened by changing climate, globalisation and mismanagement.

Recent news from the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador indicates they are a long way from winning their conservation battle. One LA-based travel writer even urges tourists not to go in order to preserve this and other similarly fragile regions.

Certainly, uncontrolled and unrestricted tourism will damage these delicate ecosystems, but instead of banning visits, maybe we need a functional mechanism for managing tourism in such places? Easily said, I know, especially in countries not known for their fully-functioning governments.

To their credit, marauding wild pigs, goats and dogs are being removed to allow recovery of some islands and for many years the Charles Darwin Research Station has conducted a successful captive breeding program. However, these efforts are mainly due to NGOs and volunteers while the Ecuadorian government have been notoriously lax in policing illegal fishing and development.

The International Galápagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) are vocal in calling for protection, management and control of tourism on the islands. Just like their Antarctic cousins at IAATO, member operators recognise the precarious nature of the islands and adhere to strict guidelines – a good reason to travel with an accredited business.

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