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Originally reported by Reuters, Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, has announced plans to expand the Galapagos Marine Reserve by around 60,000 square kilometres. 

At 133,000 square kilometres, the Galapagos Marine Reserve is already one of the world’s largest protected areas. The new expansion will extend towards Costa Rica, following the Cocos Ridge, creating a protected swimway between the Galapagos Islands and Isla del Cocos. This previously unprotected band of water is a known ‘superhighway’ for threatened and endangered migratory species including whale sharks, scalloped hammerhead, sea turtles, and more.

President Guillermo Lasso made the announcement on Monday from a news conference in Glasgow, where he is attending the COP26 summit. Lasso also stated Ecuador will seek a conservation debt swap to finance the costs of increased preservation and investments in technology and infrastructure.

“We estimate it will be the biggest debt swap for conservation that has taken place globally until now,” Lasso said, adding that he is examining several options for the swap, including with multilateral organisations.

In 2020 a huge fishing fleet gained attention when it was observed operating near the Galapagos, with international concerns about the potential impact to local marine life being expressed. This extra layer of protection comes as welcome news.