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Galapagos Expansion Named a Blue Spark in Growing Network of Highest Quality Marine Protected Areas

For Immediate Release

January 27, 2021


Lance Morgan,, 707-217-8242 (cell)

[Seattle, WA] Marine Conservation Institute announced today that the proposed expansion of protections around the Galápagos is now a Blue Spark marine protected area collaboration. The Blue Spark designation for this proposed protected area reflects significant public and scientific interest in strengthening protections for this biodiversity hotspot that surrounds the existing Galápagos Marine Reserve and indicates that the proposed protected area is making progress towards earning a prestigious Blue Park Award for conservation excellence.

The plan for expanded protections around Galápagos was proposed to President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador by a team of scientists led by Dr. Alex Hearn, a researcher at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, last week. It is championed by the Ecuadorian organization, Más Galápagos with the support of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy program in partnership with Mission Blue and Island Conservation, and has widespread support in Ecuadorian civil society and internationally. It calls for the conservation of open ocean areas important for migratory species that move beyond the boundaries of the Galápagos Marine Reserve and are currently threatened by domestic and foreign industrial fishing.

Marine Conservation Institute collaborates with Blue Spark partners to plan and improve their management and implement MPAs, using the Blue Park Award criteria as the blueprint for a better protected ocean. A Blue Park Award indicates that a marine protected area meets the highest science-based standards for marine biodiversity conservation. Galápagos Marine Reserve earned a Blue Park Award in 2019.

Nearly 3,000 marine species, over 20% of which are found nowhere else on the planet, inhabit the waters of the Eastern Tropical Pacific surrounding the Galápagos Islands. While the existing Galápagos Marine Reserve protects resident coastal marine species, species that forage in the open ocean or migrate along pathways outside of the reserve, including sharks, turtles and seabirds, need increased protection.

“The threats facing both the marine and human communities in Galápagos today are very different from those of twenty-five years ago,” said Dr. Hearn. “If we wish to reverse declining population trends in endangered marine species and safeguard our national and local fisheries from the effects of climate change and overfishing, we need to act to increase protection now.”

Marine life in the region is currently facing enormous pressure from domestic and foreign industrial fishing fleets that concentrate near the borders of the marine reserve both within the Ecuadorian Exclusive Economic Zone and on the high seas. Mobile species are highly susceptible to being caught as bycatch of industrial fleets targeting commercial species such as tuna and swordfish. Industrial fishing operations are causing unprecedented mortality to marine life, responsible for the death of thousands of endangered and highly migratory marine animals each year. Fishing fleets often lure marine life out of protected areas using fish aggregating devices (FADs), which are floating devices deployed in the ocean to attract fish, but that also attract sharks and other marine life. Creating a new marine protected area in adjacent waters provides an additional buffer between marine life and fishing fleets, giving these species a better chance of survival.

Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute, said about this new Blue Spark, “We are especially excited to announce this Blue Spark because these additional protections around the Galápagos are essential to safeguarding the incredible biodiversity in this special place from the looming threat of overfishing.”

Marine Conservation Institute’s announcement of the expanded protections for the Galápagos as a Blue Spark brings the total number of protected areas in the Blue Parks network to 24 – 17 Blue Parks and 7 Blue Sparks. The Galápagos Expansion and the other Blue Sparks— California Seamounts (USA), Piedra del Viento Sanctuary (Chile), Cabo Pulmo National Park (Mexico), Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (USA), Inhambane Bay Community Conservation Network (Mozambique), and Namancurá-Burdwood Bank II & Yaganes (Argentina)—represent tomorrow’s Blue Parks.

Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist and Director of the Blue Parks Program said, “I look forward to working closely with our Blue Spark partners to achieve new Blue Parks. Individually, Blue Parks and Blue Sparks protect truly unique places, and together they will help safeguard life in the sea.”

Marine Conservation Institute is accepting nominations for the 2021 Blue Park Awards until the end of February. Learn about the Blue Park Award criteria and nominate a marine protected area for the award at


Support Expanded Protections for Galápagos

Scientists can support the effort to expand protections around the Galápagos by signing on to Marine Conservation Institute’s scientists’ letter of support, addressed to the President of Ecuador. Read the letter and sign it at

Sign the general petition of support for the proposed new protections around the Galápagos at

About Blue Parks

Marine Conservation Institute works with existing and new MPAs to ensure they are well- designed, effectively managed, and deliver on their commitment to protect marine biodiversity for generations to come. These Blue Spark collaborations will earn Blue Park Awards, the highest award for excellence in marine conservation, once they are fully implemented and effectively managed.

Blue Park Awards were established by the Marine Conservation Institute to encourage governments to safeguard marine wildlife, secure critical habitats, promote resistance to climate change, and ensure the beauty of our oceans for future generations. The effort aims to assemble a global network that protects and sustains marine life and habitats. Today there are 17 marine protected areas that have been awarded Blue Park status. In addition to awarding Blue Parks, Marine Conservation Institute has launched collaborative projects – Blue Sparks – with groups planning new marine protected areas and upgrading existing marine protected areas in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, and Mozambique to ensure their efforts result in future Blue Parks.

About Marine Conservation Institute

Marine Conservation Institute, founded in 1996, works in the U.S. and globally to seek strong protection for at least 30% of the ocean by 2030—for us and future generations. Our focus on protecting the ocean’s most important places follows several lines of work: identifying and advocating for strong marine protected areas; improving laws and other tools to better conserve marine biodiversity; catalyzing effective conservation by recognizing and elevating the best marine protected areas as Blue Parks; and accurately reporting on global conservation efforts with our Marine Protection Atlas (

For additional materials including logos and photos, please contact our head of communications, Madeleine Serkissian at