A New Ranger Station to Protect Sharks in Galapagos

Home to nearly 3,000 marine species the Galapagos Islands encompass a truly unique ocean environment, hosting humpback whales, sea turtles, manta rays, and a 2016 National Geographic Pristine Seas study found that the northern area of the Galapagos, around the small islands of Darwin and Wolf, was home to the largest shark biomass in the world. The Ecuadorian government announced the creation of a new 15,000-square-mile marine sanctuary — an expansion of the “no-take” zone of the Galapagos Marine Reserve — to protect the area surrounding Darwin and Wolf in March 2016.

Unfortunately and despite sharp declines, illegal fishing is still a problem given the Reserve’s abundant marine life. Most of these commercial fishing infractions take place at the borders of the reserve, which requires trips as long as 575 miles to Darwin and Wolf from Santa Cruz and last as many as five days. WildAid together with Galapagos National Park has developed a plan to reduce patrol distances and decrease operating costs for the park by more than $2.4 million annually, all while providing greater coverage for the reserve and investing in a new patrol fleet for the park.

A crucial part of this project is the construction of a new ranger station at Pinta Island, which is inside the Darwin and Wolf and will allow rangers to quickly intercept illegal fishing infractions at the Darwin and Wolf Marine Sanctuary. You can help us achieve this goal and protect sharks and other marine species in the Galapagos.

Community Education in South Raja Ampat

The Misool Community Education Program prioritizes early childhood education in local villages and is at the heart of our conservation philosophy. In 2011, in partnership with Seacology and WildAid, Misool Foundation built a kindergarten in the village of Fafanlap, about 75 minutes from Misool resort island in South Raja Ampat.

The village of Fafanlap had reported low student retention and anecdotal interviews with teachers indicated that the students were not suitably prepared to benefit from their classes.

The kindergarten helps kids 4 to 6 prepare for school through a curriculum that increases student literacy and subsequently reduces student dropout rates. The Kindergarten now has 44 registered students and employs three teachers who focus on learning through play and teaching the children about the environment.

A canine unit to prevent invasive species in Galapagos

Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. That’s why WildAid helped the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency form a specialized canine unit to protect these unique islands from illegal products that may contain invasive species.

Last year, we selected and trained one dog, Rex, and three handlers, and built kennels and offices for the unit. Rex spent three months training in the identification of nine odors prohibited from entering the Galapagos, but commonly found on passengers attempting to smuggle them onto the islands. Their handlers were selected using a variety of personality and aptitude tests, and trained on canine care and handling.

The canine unit is a versatile and low-cost method to prevent the entry of invasive species on the islands. You can help us grow this unit with the addition of a new dog and specialized training to protect Galapagos ports.

Reducing plastic waste in the Galapagos

Our oceans currently receive 5-13 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. The results of this can be seen in the oceanic garbage patches— vortexes of plastic debris; overwhelming pollution in coastal areas, and marine wildlife deaths due to ingestion of plastic pieces. Galapagos National Park, home to more than 3,000 marine species and a living laboratory for scientists around the world is no exception.

WildAid is working with the Galapagos National Park Rangers to reduce plastic consumption on the islands, starting with local elementary schools. Rangers have collected data on current plastic consumption at Galapagos elementary schools and will track use throughout the year to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. Using a combination of games and infographics, our team will explain why plastic pollution is a problem for our oceans and how it impacts bird, turtle, and marine mammal species, as well as our health and communities. Students will be given a reusable water bottle to incentivize its use over single-use plastic bottles. The pilot school, where this program was incorporated reduced their plastic consumption by 95%. You can help us bring this campaign to three additional Galapagos’ elementary schools to reduce the use of plastic single-use bottles in the Galapagos.

Manta and Whale Shark Research in Lamakera, Indonesia

Lamakera village was one of the world’s top manta hunting site– previously landing over 1,000 mantas in a single season. In 2014, this small fishing village and all of Indonesia was declared a manta sanctuary. Together with WildAid, Misool Foundation has been working in Lamakera for the past three years to help manta fishermen find alternative livelihoods to ensure the success of the new sanctuary.

Since then, 80% of the former manta fishers have been trained as manta researchers, enforcement officials or in new sustainable fisheries. The new research program has helped educate the community on the benefits of mantas, whale sharks and other marine animals for the ocean and as a draw for ecotourism. We are currently building a research center and photographing and tagging these animals to identify them and track their migratory patterns to ensure their protection across the entire route.

You can help us in this crucial work with funding for additional equipment and training for new researchers and community rangers.

Protect Palau’s coral reefs and prevent illegal fishing

The small island nation of Palau, located in the Western Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Indonesia, has paved the way for marine conservation. It created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009 and in 2015 declared that over 80% of its waters would be protected as a marine sanctuary.

Palau’s park rangers conduct daily patrols to prevent illegal fishing and protect more than 500 species of coral, 1,300 species of reef fish and numerous endangered species such as the dugong, saltwater crocodile, sea turtles, and giant clams. Enforcement of Palau’s marine environment ensures sustainable use of its resources and protects its coral reefs from additional stressors.

You can help protect Palau’s incredible marine biodiversity by helping us assure a regular patrol schedule in the Northern Reefs area, improved training for park rangers and equipment purchases for safe and effective patrols. Together, these can increase the quality and quantity of patrols.

Rescue humpback whales snared by fishing gear in Ecuador

Every summer, humpback whales travel thousands of miles to mate and birth their calves near Isla de la Plata. Due to its productive waters and abundance of commercial fish species, it is also the site of rampant illegal fishing. The numerous illegal gill nets and longlines set by poachers can tangle and drown the whales.

Machalilla’s park rangers developed a humpback whale rescue program four years ago where specially trained rangers, upon finding an entangled whale, jump in the water to cut away the fishing lines. Through a combination of patrols and community outreach, the Machalilla rangers are notified of entanglements and have rescued 14 whales to date. You can help Machalilla’s park rangers rescue more humpback whales this year with increased patrols, the purchase of equipment to help during these daring rescues and community outreach.

Support Vaquita Conservation and Fishermen in Mexico

The world’s smallest porpoise is on the brink of extinction. The vaquita marina (little sea cow) is onlyfound in the Northern Sea of Cortez and fewer than 12 individuals remain (a dramatic decrease from last year). While fishermen do not target the vaquita directly, its numbers are decreasing due to entanglements in gillnets used to trap the totoaba fish.
Although Mexico enacted a gillnet ban in the vaquita’s marine habitat, illegal fishing runs rampant and the lucrative totoaba trade takes precedence to vaquita conservation for fishers in the area. Monitoreo Vaquita is a Mexican organization composed of local fishers that care about vaquita conservation. The group was founded in 2010 to monitor the vaquita population and remove gill nets from the water. Together with international scientists, Monitoreo Vaquita currently has 84 hydrophones in the vaquita habitat to acoustically monitor their population and last year removed 115 nets from the ocean.
With your help, we can continue tracking the vaquita population, provide a small salary for the Monitoreo Vaquita fishermen, and educate the community about the importance of the vaquita.

Sea turtle rehabilitation hospital in Machalilla National Park

Sea turtles in Ecuador face many dangers as they seek to nest along the country’s beaches. Since 2012, the Machalilla marine wildlife hospital has rescued more than 300 sea turtles suffering from various injuries including lesions and internal damage by fishing hooks and entrapment with marine debris, as well as fractures from boat collisions. Other patients include 10 sea lions and more than 300 sea birds over the last five years.
Food and medications are donated by the community or purchased by the Machalilla park rangers out of pocket. We seek to increase the number of sea turtles treated at one time from 25 to 35, improve operations and ensure better diagnosis and treatment of injuries, as well as purchase medications, a digital x-ray machine, surgical equipment and upgrade aging equipment.

Patrolling the seas in Ecuador

Thousands of sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the sea every year from Ecuador’s beaches, but unfortunately less than 1% survive to adulthood facing dangers from illegal fishing equipment, collisions with boats and ghost nets.
Sea turtles are an important part of a healthy marine ecosystem. We will protect sea turtles in the ocean by improving surveillance at sea to prevent fishing practices that often result in sea turtle deaths and injuries, such as long line and gill net fishing. A regular patrol schedule, improved training for park rangers and equipment purchases for safe and effective patrols can all increase the quality and quantity of patrols. During patrols, park rangers gather floating drift nets, and confiscate illegal fishing gear, which together are responsible for myriad sea turtle injuries and deaths as incidental bycatch. These activities encourage responsible fishing practices and compliance with regulations that protect sea turtles.