In 2012 we worked with WildAid in the Galapagos to develop an oil spill prevention and contingency response unit with the goal of preventing minor and major oil spills from contaminating the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos islands.
This program includes an inspection station to help prevent future disasters in the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands. Inspections for small and big boats are performed on board since it is important to witness the performance of wastewater plants, bilges and sludge management. Samples are taken on board and transferred to the laboratory for analysis.
The inspection station includes:
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist. Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times, and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named. Covering nearly 5000 square km (3100 square miles), the Galapagos Islands are one of the most important and significant National Parks in the world.
The principal economic activity in the Galapagos is tourism which started in the early 1970s when local people took visitors around on their fishing boats. Over the past three decades the number of visitors has increased to well over 100,000 tourists each year. With the number of visitors and the population increasing, so has the number of boats increased, along with the risk for small and large oil spills. Due to a lack of resources within Galapagos park management, the risk of oil spills are increased even further. In 2001, the tanker “Jessica” released over 200,000 gallons of diesel and bunker fuel. Since then, there have been other near misses. The US Military Group and the Ecuadorian Navy (Coastguard) performed assessments both in 2002 and 2009, respectively and identified courses of action in order to prevent and properly react against these potential risks. In order to prevent further incidences such as this, it was recommended that an oil spill prevention and contingency response control unit be based on Baltra island, centrally located within the reserve.