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Place: Galapágos (Ecuador)
Time: 1992-1999
Short description of the case
The Galapágos Islands are located approximately 1,000 km west of the coast of mainland
Ecuador. They were famous for the enormous biodiversity and for being the place where Charles
Darwin formulated his theory of evolution. More than 97% of the area of the islands were
declared as a national park in 1959 and were administered by the Charles Darwin Foundation
(CDF) and the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS). While these restrictions and external
interventions were largely unproblematic until the early 1980s, things changed with a fast growing
tourism industry, high levels of population growth (around 6% between 1982 and 1998) due to
high birth rates and especially immigration, the introduction of industrial fishing, and the
appearance of international seafood brokers. The use of land, forests and maritime resources was
further restricted with the declaration of the ocean around Galápagos as a marine reserve in 1986.
The tourism and the public sector were the largest employers on the islands, but small-scale
fishing employed at least 13% of the population (and up to 30% of the population on some
islands). In 1992, after being lobbied by the CDF and other conservation organizations, the
government of Ecuador declared a ban of fishing sea cucumber which was profitably be exported
to Asian markets. Local fishers formed cooperatives and protested against the ban (which was
preceded by restrictions on lobster, shark and turtle fishing) as well as their exclusion from the
related consultation and decision-making process. After the ban was partially lifted in 1994, the
national park administrations and the CDF were again able to establish a sea cucumber fishery
ban in 1995. Consequentially, local fisherman staged protests and riots against this decision.
Tensions eased with the passage of the 1998 Special Law for Galapágos (excluding industrial
fishing enterprises from the area) and the partial lifting of the cucumber fishing ban in 1999.
Violence: 0
All parties involved in the conflict did not resort to use of violence against members of the other
group. Galapágos fishermen murdered some turtles, threatened CDF staff and destroyed
property, while national park authorities confiscated illegally fished sea cucumber, exacted fines
and arrested violators of fishing regulations.
External resource appropriation: 1
Around 97.5 percent of the Galapágos area as well as the surrounding waters were declared as a
national park. Access to and use of these areas by local was seriously restricted. Industrial fishing
enterprises caught for the mainland and export markets, while sea cucumber was also mainly
caught for export.
Power differences: 1
The CDF and the GNPS were well-connected to international organizations and media, had a
significant amount of money at their disposal, and also largely enjoyed the support of the
Ecuadorian government. Local fishers were relatively poor, had no support from international
actors, and were constantly in dispute with industrial fishing enterprises (that opposed fishing
bans as well).
Recent political change: 0.67
The political system of Ecuador experienced no fundamental change prior to 1992. However, the
sea cucumber fishery ban of 1992 (together with the demarcation of the Galápagos Marine
Reserve in 1986 and the approval of its management plan in 1992) was a major change of the
local fishery regime.