Monday, February 25, 2013

The Galapagos and Garbage?!

Backing up a little to our entrance into the Galapagos.  I, as I believe most, had the idea that all areas inhabited or not within the Galapagos would be clean, beautiful, and pretty close to perfect.  Although this is the case in a lot of the National Park many areas where people are living are plagued by waste.  It appears as though tourists are more educated and have more respect for the fragility and beauty of the islands than those who live there.  For instance on our 2nd day on San Cristobal we saw discarded beer bottles along the waterfront promenade and a baby sea lion walked right through them.  It was a heart wrenching site.  In addition local men seated near a restaurant where we ate one day opened beer after beer and threw the bottle caps into the street, extremely sad.  I can't stand seeing people litter, and in a place as pristine and unique as the Galapagos, this disgusts me even more.

While in San Cristobal, we had a decent amount of rain.  These rain storms really showed the extent of the garbage and the impact on the adjacent coast and wildlife.  As the storm systems in the islands are not equipped to treat stormwater before runoff meets the ocean, any and all waste that is on the streets and sidewalks finds it way into the storm structures into the pipes, and consequently right into the ocean.  It is extremely sad to see sea lions, turtle and crabs wading around through muddied water filled with debris.  As sea lions are incredibly playful, when they see things floating in the water they automatically assume it is a toy. This can prove harmful when this item is a paintbrush that has fallen off of a boat, or as in the picture below a colorful shopping bag that has become stuck around the sea lions neck.

Shopping Bag Stuck around Sea Lion

On our dive trip the crew told us they had a 'surprise' for us one day.  This turned out to be an hour stop for us on the nastiest beach near the Coast Guard station while the boat refueled.  We arrived to the beach via two dinghy's and the people in the first dinghy literally pulled a sea lion free from a giant plastic sheet that was floating in the water.  There were several sea lions on the beach and a couple in the water, so despite the fact that there was as much garbage floating in the water as you would find in a Wal-Mart dumpster we were all about snorkeling with the sea lions (possible source of ear infection?).  You can get an idea of the garbage from the pictures below, but to see it in person is truly sad.

Sea Lion in Garbage Laden Water
Sea Lion and Garbage on the Beach
In closing, if more, or better yet all, of the local people could be better educated of the fragility of the ecosystem they live amidst the security of this pristine place would be much better off.

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