The greatest threat to biodiversity in the Galápagos Islands is the introduction of invasive species. Once a species is introduced, it may be too late or costly to implement a successful eradication program and irreversible damage may occur to native or endemic species of plants, animals, or insects. In recent years, the biological isolation of the archipelago has been significantly reduced given the growing number of planes and cargo reaching the islands. As tourism and population numbers increase exponentially, so do the threats of introducing invasive species.
In this assessment, WildAid analyzed the maritime cargo system that serves as the umbilical cord for the economy and human life on Galápagos. We evaluated all aspects of the current shipping system: mainland and island port facilities, qualifications of biosecurity personnel, equipment, cargo handling at both embarkation and arrival, and cargo vessel standards; essentially all key links in the quarantine chain. We illustrated that there is an urgent need to improve the efficiency and efficacy of maritime cargo handling. We also include a 30-year cargo growth forecast using current demographic trends to inform decision-makers on the future scale of actions required for a biosecure maritime cargo system. Large investments will be required in infrastructure, personnel, and recurring outlays in the not-so-distant future. The assessment concludes with a series of recommendations to improve current inspection and quarantine procedures along each link of the quarantine chain as well as implications for the future.