Private Conservation Charter- National Geographic Pristine Seas on board M/V Argo and DEEPSEE submersible.
The islands are among the most singular and irreplaceable areas in the world, harboring over 2,900 known species of fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals, in addition to endemic seabirds, the world’s only marine iguana, and the world’s highest abundance of sharks. Of these marine animals, 57 are included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Despite the Galápagos Islands’ unparalleled value to our natural heritage, little scientific information existed on their marine ecosystems beyond the narrow, shallow strip of ocean surrounding the archipelago. And, until recently, less that 1 percent of the islands’ waters was fully protected from fishing.
To understand the broader marine ecosystem of the Galápagos, the Pristine Seas team carried out an expedition to the archipelago in collaboration with the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station. They used high-tech methods—including rebreathers, a manned submersible, 360-degree imaging, satellite tracking of sharks, and National Geographic drop cameras—to survey and document its deep and offshore environments.
Currently, marine-based tourism supports more than a third of all jobs in the Galápagos, bringing nearly $178 million per year to the local economy. The tourism value of a shark over its lifetime in the Galápagos is $5.4 million, while a dead shark brings fishermen less than $200, according to a recent economic study by the National Geographic Society and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The protected area will ultimately benefit those fishing in waters outside the sanctuary, according to Enric Sala, we know that well-enforced no-take zones result in spillover of fish that increases fishermen’s incomes.