Land-based diving in the Galapagos has never been regulated. That is now changing.
PNG (Parque Nacional Galapagos) had lots of Puerto Ayora meetings last week. Bottom line for land-based dive shops…unless you have been awarded a new cupo (permit), you are not permitted to operate past October 15, 2009.
PNG has a total of 24 Class 1 land-based dive permits to award and 16 Class 2 permits. It seems the difference is based primarily in the size of the boat with Class 1 being larger and therefore permitted to depart one port and arrive at another. Class 2 boats are smaller and therefore only permitted to return to the same port from which they departed. These permits are the total permits available for all 4 populated islands, not per island. With PNG, of course, this is all subject to change, but is where it stands right now.
They will also be awarding 14 permits for live-aboards. Currently, only 6 boats have that permit and I believe most of those are through Jan. 2010. Though it was to have been put in place before, it is possible that with new 2010 permits for live-aboards, no land visits will be permitted. Seems tur navegable permits are for diving or land visits and never the twain shall meet…in theory. Strong rumors about limiting Wolf/Darwin time to 2 days, but that’s rumor at this point.
Some cupos will be conditionally awarded meaning owners will have 3 years to comply with certain mandatory qualifications such as an environmental impact study, an investment some could not/did not want to make merely for the possibility. Of those who have been awarded new cupos (not all available have been awarded yet), the contract with the National Park will be good for 15 years, however, boats must undergo many improvements. Seems the rules for day tour boats are as imposing as cruise boats…holding tanks for black water, eco engines, etc. All good for the Marine Reserve, but quite imposing for some small boat owners. As one said to me, “I’m going to put all this paperwork in my boat to see if it will sink.”