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IGTOA Supports “Eye In the Sky Monitoring” of the Galapagos Marine Reserve

Date: March 31, 2011

By Marcel Bigue, Galapagos Program Director,   WildAid

April 25, 2011 -- Technology is increasingly being used to cut costs and catch poachers in the Galapagos. Due to the size of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) and the threat of both national and international commercial long liners encroaching in protected waters, a few organizations and authorities have looked to technology to improve overall protection of Park waters. IGTOA, Conservation International, WildAid, WWF, the Park Service and the Navy are jointly implementing a satellite vessel monitoring system (SVMS). SVMS monitors the movement of all commercial fishing vessels over 20 MT in Ecuador. Transmitting devices are placed on each vessel and they send a signal via satellite on an hourly basis to two control centers: one for the Navy and one for the Park Service. At any given time, the Control Center can view the location of a vessel, its speed, direction and its relation to other vessels. They can also set up alarms to notify them when a vessel has entered the Marine Reserve. They can even be immediately informed via a text message to their cellular phone. In the past, the patrol boats were large oceanic vessels which cruised over 7-14 day periods with little effectiveness. This pinpoint technology allows us to dispatch small fast boats to intercept as soon as a violation takes place. 

A new problem the Park is facing is that large commercial vessels are now towing smaller vessels to the GMR 40 nautical mile limit allowing them to slip by the satellite system. For example a recent bust took place on February 24th, 2011. The Park Service and Navy intercepted three small fiberglass boats from the Ecuadorian mainland illegally fishing with longlines and in possession of 17 sharks. The three vessels Virgen Monserrate, Niño Casimiro, & Niño Jeferson were intercepted at 3:45AM, 5:00AM & 8:30AM, respectively. These three small boats were towed by the commercial vessel Don Junior, which never entered the GMR & was found 10 nautical miles outside of the Reserve. It has become a sophisticated game of cat and mouse. To locate smaller vessels, we are now working on radar and radio based real time systems that will pick up the small fishing vessels too.

IGTOA generously donated 6 satellite-tracking devices to the Park Service in order to supervise the operation of their patrol fleet and assist in coordinating illegal fishing interceptions. Their generosity allows us to effectively safeguard the GMR. 

Matt Kareus

Matt is the Executive Director of IGTOA.


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