VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY ON GALAPAGOS | PRESERVING A LOCAL BEACH
Once we had rested for a bit at our hotel after our arrival, we decided to take a peaceful walk along the sea not far from our hotel. As soon as we approached the nearest beach in town, Playa de los Marinos, we noticed the abundant amount of sea lions basking in the sun and lazily floating in the water. I’ve never seen so many sea lions in one space - except for on the docks in San Francisco!
After staring at the sea lions for what seemed like hours, my eyes finally adjusted to see the environment in which they were living. Shipwrecked boats that looked to have been there for several years housed several sea lions - either beneath, on top of, or inside the boats. Curious, we asked several locals about the age of the boats. Franklin, a local who had grown up on the island, mentioned that he thought the boats had been there for at least five years but wasn’t entirely sure.
Aside from the three huge dilapidated boats covering most of the area of the beach, there were other boats that looked like they needed repair. Pedro, a local in the Navy, confirmed that currently the main purpose of the beach is for repair boats and storage of materials. A fishermen masked in long sleeve shirts and pants painted a fresh new coat of paint dripping the remnants on the sand without much attention or worry. Aside from the crumbling boats, plastic bottles floated on top of the water and unused repair supplies sat neglected near the edge of the sea wall. We were perplexed by how dilapidated and neglected this beach seemed in comparison to the strictly regulated beaches we came across on Santa Cruz island.
The second day, we ventured towards La Loberia, a beach you can reach in about 30 minutes by foot just outside of town. It was absolutely stunning with its crystal clear water and sea lions jumping around in the water and making their home along the white soft sand that stretched across the whole beach. After coming back from the beach, we noticed several tourists, locals, and even the Galapagos National Park employees standing around Playa de los Marinos. A giant bulldozer was destroying the large sunken boat on the edge of the water.
One of the representatives from The Galapagos National Park told us, “They are removing this boat because it is an illegal fishing boat from the mainland of Ecuador and it was used to capture hammerhead sharks. The judge from the Municipal issued an order for the boat to be removed.” After hearing this, we asked locals and one confirmed that only people from the Galapagos are allowed to fish here. Fishermen from other places cannot fish in this area (according to Galapagos fishing regulations). Josh, a tourist from Australia, told us he’s glad they were removing the boat since it wasn’t that beautiful to look at when he first arrived on the island.
Although both Ryan and I thought removing the boat was a good idea (since it honestly just looked ugly and was taking up so much space along the beach), we still wondered about what would happen to beach after they removed the boat. Would the rest of the beach be cleaned up or would it be left how we saw it then? To clear up our confusion, we decided to speak with a National Park representative. She informed us that the beach is regulated by the Municipal (city) instead of within the boundaries of the Galapagos National Park. She also stated that there should be stricter regulations and guidelines by the city, or the Galapagos National Park should oversea this beach.
While the demolition process was going on, we noticed how much of the wood and trash inside the boat was going into the water. We watched the whole process with trash filing into the ocean and the sea lions trying to waddle their way around all the destruction. It was all so sad and no one was doing anything about it. Josh, the tourist from Australia, suggested that they go about the demolition process differently and more effectively by casting nets to pick up all the trash if it does flow into the water. He said there could be people out there picking up the trash before it begins to flow into the ocean. Eduardo, another elderly local, mentioned that the city should hire employees to maintain the beach regularly so that the beach is left in better condition.
The next morning we spoke with Sierra, the gardener responsible for watering the plants along the boundaries of the beach, and she mentioned to us that this same beach was extremely popular for local families swimming 10 years ago. Now she rarely sees tourists or locals enjoying this beach. Another elderly gentleman that grew up here stated “When I was growing up, my family used to swim here and the beach was very clean with beautiful white sand. Now, the boat workers leave their trash everywhere and it always looks dirty.” Eduardo, the elderly local who grew up swimming at Playa de los Marinos with his family as well, said his only wish is to see this beach return to stunning white sand again.
When we asked each of these locals what their solution would be to revive Playa de los Marinos, there was one common theme: to offer an alternative location for locals to store and maintain their boats. They suggested that a designated location farther from the center of town would be best. This area would need to be regulated with trash removal processes and proper regulations on using chemicals for cleaning and painting their boats. Lastly, all of the trash and damaged boats would need to be removed from Playa de los Marinos. This would dramatically enhance the atmosphere in town and allow tourists and locals to enjoy this incredible beach.
It's hard to feel like you can make a difference when you are so far away. However, there's a simple way of making a difference TODAY simply from your computer. You can share this post with everyone you can — through Facebook, Instagram, email, and/or Pinterest. Secondly, you can visit the iGalapagos website dedicated to educating people about this issue and others surrounding these areas. Thirdly, and most importantly, you can sign this petition to help bring awareness and push the government to take action to preserve this beach.