Recent news about TBTI Ecuador
A memorable time at a precious place
By Ratana Chuenpagdee & Vesna Kerezi
Many marine biologists and conservationists have a dream of visiting the Galápagos Islands – the place full of impressive plants and animals. Some of the animals, like the giant Galápagos tortoise, the marine iguana and the Galápagos penguin, can only be found in the islands, not anywhere else in the world. Many people learn about the Galápagos through the British naturalist Charles Darwin, who first came to the islands in 1835. Thousands of scientists have followed since in the study of this complex and precious ecosystem. While plants and animals have been at the centre of scientific investigations, very few studies focus on the Galápagos communities, especially small-scale fisheries people who live on the islands and make their livelihoods from the sea.
This was why for many of us – the ‘first timers’ – the visit to the Galápagos was very special. We were there to witness the moment when colleagues in the Galápagos and the mainland Ecuador inaugurated TBTI Ecuador on May 10, 2023. This first chapter of TBTI Global in the Latin America and the Caribbean region was long in the making. Dr. María José Barragán Paladines, Science Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), one of the coordinators of TBTI Ecuador, has been doing research on small-scale fisheries in the Galápagos for more than a decade, as part of her PhD dissertation at Memorial University (2015) but also previously.
In her current position, Dr. Barragán Paladines is collaborating with the CDF interdisciplinary fisheries team of researchers in forming the “Galápagos Fisheries Think Tank.” The main objective of the group is to enhance understanding and improvement of the management of marine socio-ecological systems in the islands through collaborative research, and by working with other key stakeholders, including the Galápagos National Park Service, fishers, and communities. Co-leading the project, and also TBTI Ecuador, with María José are César Viteri and Jorge Ramírez, senior researchers of the Charles Darwin Foundation, who have been working with small-scale fisheries communities and various levels of governments in improving knowledge and public awareness about the Galápagos for more than a decade.
The launch of TBTI Ecuador took place after the day-long lively discussion among key members, which, in addition to scientists at Charles Darwin Foundation, included a couple of small-scale fishers, representatives from the Galápagos National Park Service, environmental groups, researchers and government officials from the islands and the mainland. In the audience were a few colleagues from the region, Adriana Santos (Colombia), Ana Cinti (Argentina), Emi Koch (Peru), Minerva Arce (Mexico), and Silvia Salas (Mexico), who was the host of the 4th World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and has been leading and coordinating several meetings to discuss challenges and prospects for small-scale fisheries in the LAC region.
There are several areas that TBTI Ecuador will be focusing on in the near future. One of which is to support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in the country, starting with increasing awareness about this important instrument among key stakeholders. This will be a great contribution to the 10th anniversary of the SSF Guidelines next year. We are looking forward to hearing more about TBTI Ecuador and to joining them again in celebrating their achievements.
The Bacalao story
The minute the word Bacalao was mentioned, our eyes were wide opened. Who would have thought that we would be sampling “salt cod” here in Galápagos! If we had known that people like Bacalao, we would have brought the special salt cod product made by “Roots & Wings Fish Co.”, a women-owned social enterprise in Newfoundland focusing on improving the values of small-scale fisheries products through innovative marketing and distribution, which we support. After a while, and after we caught up with the discussion which was mostly conducted in Spanish, it became clear to us that we were not talking about the same thing. What they refer to as Bacalao is actually a grouper (Mycteroperca olfax), which is common in the waters around the Galápagos, not the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) – used to make salt cod in Newfoundland and Labrador. As we continued to listen to the discussion, it also occurred to us that the two species have more in common, in addition to the name – both are economically important but are vulnerable to several threats and stressors, including climate change and overfishing. We will certainly learn more about Bacalao grouper of the Galápagos, as we share our initiative to enhance the value and appreciation of salt cod in Newfoundland.