What Does Galapagos World Heritage Site Signify?

Many of us have heard or read about the famous and magical phrase “World Heritage Site,” but what does it mean? Living in Galapagos, I decided to ask around. I was surprised to learn that only a handful of people could adequately answer the question. The majority struggled to define the meaning of this phrase commonly used by officials, politicians, guides and tour operators. Looking for a comprehensive answer, I searched the World Heritage website for a more in depth explanation. Following is a synopsis of what I found.

1. Definition

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration………

………..What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located……

(for the full text visit “About World Heritage”

2. The W.H. Committee

. . .The Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties. It has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List.

(for the full text visit “The Committee”

3.  The W.H. List

The World Heritage List includes 830 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which theWorld Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.

These include 644 cultural, 162 natural and 24 mixed properties in 138 States Parties.

(for the full list visit “The W.H. List’

4. The List – Galapagos Island

Date of Inscription: 1978
Extension: 2001
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Brief Description

Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these nineteen islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflect the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution following his visit in 1835.

5. State of Conservation (Galapagos Islands),

Extract of World Heritage decision text 30COM 7B.29 – (2006)

a) Increasing number of access points to Galapagos, both air and marine, further compounding the threat of introduced species.

b) Sub-optimal resource allocations for critical Galapagos conservation agencies, in particular, the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS), the National Galapagos Institute (INGALA) and the Quarantine and Inspection System (SESA-SICGAL);

c) Processes for the selection of leading senior posts for INGALA and SESA-SICGAL remain to be strengthened;

d) On-going presence of a large number of illegal immigrants living in Galapagos;

e) Sports fishing activities operating in a regulatory vacuum;

f) Rapid and uncontrolled growth in tourist arrivals;

g) Non-application of aircraft inspection and fumigation regulations;

h) Non-application of quarantine measures and phytosanitary practices on cruise ships and cargo ships, as they sail between islands and from the continent to Galapagos;

i) Fishing over-capacity and insufficient alternative opportunities for fishermen;

j) Patterns of movements of people and goods between islands and between the continent and Galapagos, leading to increased opportunities for the dispersal of introduced species;

k) Continental departure points and Galapagos entry points understaffed and lacking necessary infrastructure to carry out effective inspection services;

l) Commercial shipping to Galapagos carried out by vessels very poorly designed to contain the risk of transporting alien species;

m) Absence of a comprehensive strategy for building the capacity of permanent Galapagos residents so that they may be better prepared for employment opportunities that have traditionally been filled by non-residents;

n) Educational reform, as called for by the Special Law for Galapagos in 1998, is not yet implemented; and

o) Sufficient capacity to detect and react to new introductions of alien species from the continent and between the islands of the archipelago.

9. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission to participate in the meeting noted in point 8 above;

10. Calls on donors and development agencies to focus on rapidly capitalizing a permanent financing mechanism supporting the excellent applied research and management work carried out by the GNPS and the CDF, with emphasis on the Global Environment Facility-United Nations Development Programme (GEF-UNDP) endowment fund, to a level of at least USD 15 million.

(for the full report visit  please “decision text 30COM 7B.29 – 2006″)


About Rene

About Ecuador, Galápagos, the Hospitality & Tourism industry, Conservation and personal Tidbits from a Swiss Hôtelier working in Ecuador & Galapagos and committed to supporting and encouraging local youngsters in Education, Sports and Environmental protection via my Foundation "Nova Galápagos."
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