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The Galapagos Marine Sanctuary

The waters around the Galapagos Islands are home to a stunning abundance of marine life found nowhere else on Earth, including marine iguanas and Galápagos penguins. To protect and conserve the archipelago’s biodiversity—which famously inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution—the Galapagos Marine Reserve was established. It’s one of the largest and most diverse marine protected areas on the planet, and the reserve continues to develop through the years. At the start of 2022, new expansions brought the total area of the marine reserve to an astounding 198,000 square kilometers (76,448 square miles) of protected waters.

A New International Migratory Superhighway in 2022

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso officially announced the expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve by 60,000 square kilometers (23,166 square miles) in January 2022. The expansion includes a migratory superhighway called Hermandad Marine Reserve, which connects the Galapagos Marine Reserve to Costa Rica’s protected waters.

The Extension of Galapagos Protected Waters

Environmentalists hope that safeguarding the migratory pathways around Galapagos Islands will benefit the species that ply this route, including whales, sharks, and sea turtles. Parts of the new marine protected area are no-take zones that completely prohibit fishing, while some parts are designated as no-longline-fishing zones to help prevent longlines from entering the existing reserve.

The extension of Galapagos’ protected waters is the first step in a multinational plan to push for greater protection within the Cocos-Galápagos Swimway, which will allow for safer passage of migratory species in the area. Neighboring countries Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia are all part of the protection and conservation efforts in this common corridor.

The 15,000-square mile protected area is located in the northern Galapagos Islands and is home to the highest number of sharks in the world, often numbering in the thousands. The hammerheads, reef sharks, and whale sharks that patrol these waters complement an array of other marine life that make these volcanic islands a global capital of biodiversity.

In fact, a recent study done by the Charles Darwin Research Station and National Geographic found that the average fish bi