Original source: EL UNIVERSO
Original title: Cien lanchas hacen turismo sin permisos en Galápagos
Original author: José Olmos
A hundred boats without permits in tourism in Galapagos
By Jose Olmos
In Galapagos there are 134 licensed boats for sightseeing, but at least another 102 are working on a non-regularized/authorized manner and offer various options, with costs up to two times lower. For example, a daily tour from Santa Cruz to Floreana Island is USD $135 per person, while non-regulated operations charge USD $70. Faced with this reality there is a push and pull of those involved. Legal & authorized operators complain; the Galapagos National Park (GNP) recognizes the problem and says it wants to find a way out of this dilemma; the Environment Minister, Marcela Aguiñaga, says there is “a misperception created by quasi operadores …”. The Navy says it has issued at least fifteen citations in two months for illegal tourism operations.
To reduce pressure on the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), for the past five years, has been advocating for change in activity of some 1,100 local fishermen. Rafael Correa’s government delivered 24 fishing permits for experiential tourism purposes. But a dozen of these offer tourism services other than those authorized, such as scuba diving. Some fifty or so local fishermen that do not have the necessarry permits are also dedicating themselves to tourism.
There are 80 cargo/transport boats registered by the Navy in the islands. This is the fluvial transportation from port to port, but 40 of these are devoted to tourism and offer daily tours, including diving and visits to recreational sites.
This reality is lived while marking three years of UNESCO listing the Galapagos Islands on the World Heritage list of endangered sites, and while President Rafael Correa declared the archipelago as a risk zone in order to take the necessary steps to recover the category of Natural Heritage of Humanity.
Galapagos has special and strict rules to preserve and protect the land and marine reserves. There are 83 boats with capacity between 16 and 100 passengers who have permits. Other 9, with maximum capacity of 16, have room for bay and diving tours. For the past five months, 18 more managaed to win permits through a contest.
But in Puerto Ayora, San Cristobal and Isabela, the offer is diverse. In Puerto Ayora, a woman approached and mutters: “Where do you travel? Want a tour of the bay or to go to some other island?” There are other men and women, at least five, also ready to make your offer.
A tourist asks for a tour of Floreana Island. She says that is a tour from eight in the morning until six in the afternoon, that there one can snorkel and visit interesting places, with lunch included. The cost is USD $70 per person. The trip, she says, will be on the boat ‘Luna Azul’ (Blue Moon). But the Blue Moon is not a tourist boat but cargo/transport boat, and is one of at least 40 such units engaged tours. That same trip in a boat authorized costs USD $135.
The Sulidae is a yacht that, since 2008 has had cargo/transport permission, but also does tourism related tours. David Balfour van Hosen and David Balfour Arízaga, its owners, sold their ‘cupo’ (operating licence) back in December 2007 to the operator ‘Etica’ of Roque Sevilla – who, by merging with a similar permission for the ‘Mistral’ boat legalized the operation of the ship ‘La Pinta’ – a 48 passengers vessel, by decision of the Ministry of Environment, led by Aguiñaga.
Each day, the port of Puerto Ayora is a kind of market where you are offered, informally, many forms of land and marine tourism, such as bay tours, diving, snorkel or cruise between islands and even fishing.
Among the 50 fishermen involved in tourism in the islands there are 5 in Puerto Ayora offering their boats for any type of tourism – these being Jorge Aguirre Cobos, Antonio Santana Burgos, Jorge Cordova Holguin, Lider Santos Zavala Velez and Galo Cedeno. The latter, owner of Bella Union II boat, said to have families to support and not hurt anyone. “We also have asked for permission from fishing to tourism. The PNG has given us permission to work, although only informally (orally), but the Port Authority prohibits us from doing bay tours.”
… more of this article translation to come shortly