press release
Published: 05 June 2018

Could Galapagos become plastic pollution-free?

By Natasha Meredith

An innovative team made up of researchers from UK universities including the University of Surrey are working with the Galapagos Conservation Trust, to tackle the growing problem of marine plastic pollution in the Galapagos Islands.

Kayleigh Wyles
Getty Images

Together with UK marine plastic pollution experts, Galapagos agencies, and the local community, the team are developing a plan for the islands to become a model for the rest of the world on how to deal with plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to marine wildlife around the world and the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are no exception. Reports show at least 18 Galapagos species have been found to be entangled by plastic, or have ingested the material, including the endangered Galapagos sea lion.

The team will initially focus on determining the impacts of plastics to the islands wildlife; establishing where marine plastic pollution is coming from and where it goes; and understanding the ultimate source of this problem, human behaviour, in order to identify solutions such as alternative products and behaviour change. Answers to these questions will be used to support local agencies to develop a five-year action plan to address the issues surrounding plastic pollution.

This builds on a recent resolution by the Government Council of Galapagos (CGREG) to restrict single-use plastics.

Dr Kayleigh Wyles, Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, said:

“It’s often assumed that Galapagos are one of the most pristine archipelago, but unfortunately it is evident that it's not as pristine as it should be. Marine litter is found everywhere, including this area often assumed to be a haven for wonderful wildlife.

“Whilst marine litter is a global and complex problem, there is great enthusiasm within the local communities and agencies. Embracing this and working with such a passionate international team of experts, we will build a greater understanding of marine plastic in this environment, and thus be able to work with appropriate decision makers to help limit the dangers of plastics in this unique ecosystem and hopefully the rest of the world will take note and implement similar measures.”

Sharon Johnson, chief executive of Galapagos Conservation Trust, commented, “The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique, scientifically important places on Earth. Galapagos Conservation Trust are proud to be working with local Galapagos agencies to tackle the issue of marine plastic pollution. We need to act now in order to help protect some of the world's rarest species in one of the world's most iconic archipelagos before it is too late.”

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