Interview with the Ministry of the Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition
By Marcos Chiluisa
Marcos: Thank you so much Minister for your time. HiExpat magazine seeks to inspire and inform North American expatriates who have chosen our country as a destination to spend their golden years. As a leader in your field, you have more than 21 years of experience in environmental issues. Likewise, you are recognized for being a successful entrepreneur and faithful pioneer for Ecuador when it comes to the environment. In this new position as head of the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador, in which you have served for almost a year, how has your experience in the private sector contributed to the implementation of public policies that are in accordance with reality and the current needs of Ecuador? We are specifically curious to know how you have balanced the conservation of marine life and fishing, knowing that this economic reality is the livelihood for many Ecuadorian families.
Minister: My experience in sustainability issues, as well as my vocation in the environmental field, have allowed me to put my knowledge to the service of Ecuador. In this service, the government has begun focusing on objectives which prioritize the sustainable use of nature and water capital, restoration of ecosystem gradients, implementation of financial sustainability mechanisms for protected areas, creation of water recharge zones, and an inclusive and participatory strategy for the reduction of deforestation.
Thus, one of the most important milestones of this government has been the prioritization of public policy which has focused on finding solutions to environmental issues from various productive sectors in Ecuador. A good example of this is the creation of our National Transition Plan Towards Decarbonization. Rolled out from the national government, and still prioritizing economic growth, the plan creates a roadmap to reduce and neutralize greenhouse gas emissions until at least 2050. This roadmap will allow technological innovation to be incorporated in the different productive sectors and promote the generation of new inclusive economic models based on bio-economies, circular economies, knowledge management, renewable energies, and others.
Regarding marine life, Ecuador is currently developing tools for the study of Ecuadorian marine systems.These tools will generate a historical analysis of the physical-chemical make-up of the Ecuadorian ocean, from the coastal strip to the Galapagos Islands. Unfortunately though, we still only retain a basic understanding of the effects of climate change, and this information is required to prepare adaptation measures in the coastal zone and the Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador has created the new Hermandad Reserve which serves as an example to the world about the importance of the conservation of vulnerable or threatened migratory species. This reserve features state-of-the-art protection mechanisms for much more effective control, derives more benefits for citizens, and prioritizes sustainable development in the Galapagos Islands by:
✔ Encouraging cooperation, investment, and mobilization of international private financial resources dedicated to the Islands conservation
✔ Boosting sustainable tourism, including diving tourism, among others
✔ Working as a living laboratory for the development of scientific research
✔ Compiling with Agenda 2030
Marcos: With the creation of the new Marine Reserve in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador will add 60,000 square kilometers to the Galapagos marine protection zone. 30,000 of these kilometers will not allow fishing activity and 30,000 will not allow longlining either. This area is located northeast of the archipelago and protects the biological corridor that exists between the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Cocos Island in Costa Rica and other oceanic islands of neighboring countries such as Coiba in Panama and Malpelo in Colombia. Can you tell us a little more about this new reserve, how it benefits Ecuador, and how this will be reflected in the country's economy long term?
Minister: Executive Decree 319 establishes the creation of a new protected area, the Hermandad Marine Reserve, on the northeast side of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, with an area of 60,000 kilometers.The decision of the Ecuadorian State to create this new reserve was announced at COP 26, in Glasgow, as an opportunity to showcase the need to protect our oceans in the eyes of the world. Although it was just recently announced, the proposal has been worked on for several years by scientists.These scientists have been investigating the use of the submarine mountain ranges by threatened migratory species who travel these migration routes between the Galapagos and Cocos Island.
The new Hermandad Marine Reserve is a biological corridor for more than 20 endangered migratory species such as sharks, sea turtles, and manta rays.These species travel between two protected areas, the Galapagos and Cocos Island (Costa Rica), following the underwater mountain range that provides food for them. Some Galapagos species have also been found in these areas, such as sea lions, albatrosses and Galapagos sharks that leave the archipelago to feed.
Thus, the reserve will be expanded to this important biological corridor through which several vulnerable species transit during their migratory routes. Human activities will no longer be able to affect these species' habitats.
On March 14, 2022, the Hermandad Marine Reserve area was incorporated into the National System of Protected Areas of Ecuador, increasing the national marine area under conservation by 5.5%, from 13.3 to 19.3 million hectares. In the new reserve, all those activities that are not compatible with the provisions of the Organic Code of the Environment and its regulations are prohibited. Additionally, work is being done on the Management Plan of the protected area for its efficient management, in coordination with the Ministries of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fishing, Foreign Relations and Human Mobility, Economy and Finance, and Defense.
Below are just a few of the benefits that the Hermandad Reserve will generate for the country:
It will stimulate the investment of international private financial resources to contribute to marine conservation.
It will consolidate the image of the country as a Biosphere Reserve and the first Natural Heritage of the world.
It will function as a living laboratory for the development of scientific research.
It will expand knowledge about marine biodiversity of the Exclusive Economic Zone.
It will strengthen environmental awareness and dissemination of marine wealth.
It will boost diving tourism.
Marcos: Many North Americans choose Ecuador because it reminds them of the 50s and 60s in the United States, due to the abundance of nature that can be found here. Although Ecuador is considered a developing country, we have been the frontrunners in promoting sustainable development. Based on your experience in the environmental sector, how do you project Ecuador’s protection of the environment will grow over the next 10 years?
Minister: Ecuador is positioned as an important leader in the environmental field worldwide. We have generated a public policy to strengthen the Ecological Transition, which allows us to continue creating opportunities to improve the quality of life of citizens, without neglecting the conservation of our natural resources. We promote cross-cutting public policies to together move towards a low-carbon development model, create resilience to climate change, and are an example of how to coexist with biodiversity. We will continue with our commitment to work on the five fundamental pillars of Ecological Transition: emissions, energy, biodiversity, water, and materials. Additionally, we will be creating opportunities for innovation, development of bio-enterprises, new jobs, and investments within the framework of green growth. From this, we will be able to show that Ecuador has the currency that the world needs to get ahead: biodiversity.