Galápagos (Ecuador), 13 January 2023 – The Galápagos Marine Reserve is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, which makes monitoring and patrolling it expensive and challenging.
Its rich diversity of marine life also makes it attractive to illegal fishing interests. Crimes in the fisheries sector and other maritime crimes pose serious threats to the islands’ delicate marine ecosystem and harm their communities, whose livelihoods and health depend on maritime security.
Neither the police nor the coast guard know what crimes they will come across when they go on patrol. Since 2021, UNODC through its Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) has been supporting Ecuador to ensure that maritime law enforcement officers in the Galápagos understand what maritime crimes are, have the means to collect evidence of them, and can present that evidence in court.
Focusing on the threat posed by narcotics trafficking and related crimes, GMCP has also responded to a request from an inter-agency group on justice in the Galápagos to support local authorities to map responsibilities, which helps to ensure effective coordination and prosecution of crimes committed at sea.
In December 2022, GMCP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to further shared goals in fighting maritime crime, in Galápagos and elsewhere. The MoU demonstrates how the conservation and maritime security communities can leverage each other’s core competencies for greater impact in their respective fields.
Under the MoU, WWF will provide GMCP with scientific information on fishing operations and fishery management in target countries, including Ecuador. GMCP shall use the information to effectively deploy its resources to combat crimes in the fisheries sector and other maritime crimes, coordinating with local and regional stakeholders.
“WWF is proud to partner with UNODC to build capacity at the intersection of ocean health and maritime crime”, said Johan Bergenas, WWF’s Senior Vice President of Oceans, who signed the MoU for the organization.
The MoU was officially launched on 7 December 2022 during a UNODC and WWF technical session in the Galápagos to build institutional coordination to deal with crimes at sea, including drug trafficking, fuel smuggling and wildlife trafficking.
The workshop was attended by UNODC regional experts from Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico, as well as Ecuador. All shared technical tools that allow a better response to drug trafficking, fuel smuggling and wildlife trafficking. UNODC presented its experience in Mexico regarding the development of a reference guide for investigating crimes against wildlife, which improves responses and strategies from crime scene to court. The session resulted in a preliminary draft of coordination guidelines and set of recommendations being approved.
UNODC, WWF and its partners will continue to support efforts to deter maritime crime in the Galápagos and across the region.
Click here for more information on UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme.
For more details of the UNODC Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment, which supported the above-mentioned workshop, click here.
Here you can explore the work of UNODC’s Peru and Ecuador Office (in Spanish).