Socio-Ecology, Assessment and Management of Fisheries

Socio-Ecology, Assessment and Management of Fisheries

Socio-ecology, assessment and management of fisheries: steps towards sustainability

This project is currently Active

Fishing is one of the most important activities in Galapagos. It can produce more than 2 million dollars per year. It is source of employment for more than 500 fishers and their families. In addition, fishing is essential for food security for the local people of the Archipelago. There are more than 50 species that can be fished in Galapagos; among the most important are: spiny lobsters, slipper lobster and fish.

CDF along with Galapagos National Park Directorate and other partners are carrying out interdisciplinary researches to achieve sustainable fisheries in Galapagos. These researches include, from the biology and ecology of species, line-based ecosystems, capture technologies, up to the governance, sociology of fishers and economy of fishing activity.

Our Research Team

Jorge Ramírez

Principal Investigator

Jorge was born in Mexico and since 2010 has lived in Galapagos. He is a Marine Biologist with a Master’s degree in Marine and Coastal Science & Sustainable Management. He has always studied...

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César Viteri

Principal Investigator

César is an economist by training, obtained his PhD in resource economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (USA); and has been involved with coastal marine resource management in Galapagos...

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Solange Andrade


Solange arrived in June 2016 as a volunteer to the Fisheries Program just before graduating from ESPOL (Guayaquil) as a biologist. She has always been interested in marine sciences and conservation;...

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Nicolas Moity


Nicolás is Marine and Geographical Information Systems scientist at the Charles Darwin Research Station since June 2015. He has been involved in a wide range of applied research projects to support...

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Gabriela has been a social scientist at the Charles Darwin Research Station since July 2019. She is a geographer and has a diploma in integrated risk and disaster management and a master's degree in...

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Project Details

Fisheries are complex systems that interrelate nature with human society; for this reason, they are called socio-ecological systems. Their function depends on several variables: biological (i.e. reproduction), environmental (i.e. Climate Change), ecological (i.e. food chains), technological (i.e. fishing methods), social (i.e. governance) and economic (i.e. markets). Therefore, we need an interdisciplinary scientific team to study and understand the fishing system of Galapagos.

On biological and ecological components of fisheries, we are studying the life histories of the main fish species of Galapagos. We want to know how many years they live, at which age they reproduce, what they feed with and where they live when they are larvae, juveniles and adults. We are also researching the mangroves woods in Galapagos, as they are one of the principal ecosystems where fishes and lobsters grow up. We are learning about the distribution and dynamics of mangroves and studying the environmental services that this ecosystem provides to the Galapagos’ economic value.

In the technological component, along with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, we are assessing Fishing Aggregating Devises as a tool for sustainable fishing. These devices are buoys of more than one meter of diameter, anchored to the seabed and with a mesh below that attracts pelagic fishes like tunas and swordfishes. Our expectation is that this tool can help fishers to diversify their fishing without threaten environment and to increase their economic incomes, since the pelagic fishes have faster reproduction cycles than other fish species.

In 2019, we are opening a new research area to study the social and economic components of fisheries in Galapagos. On one hand, we want to analyze in detail the fishery governance since the creation of the Galapagos Marine Reserve up to the present. On the other hand, we want to study the market tools that incentivize sustainable fishing practices in Galapagos more.

It is important to mention that Climate Change is a transversal study for all of our research. It is fundamental to know the impact of this global threat on fishing species, ecosystems and people that depend on this activity in Galapagos.

Our results are disseminated to authorities, fishers, scientists and the public through scientific papers, technical reports, talks, workshops and environmental education programs. We permanently advise on the fisheries assessments that the Galapagos National Park Directorate elaborates annually, and we train their staff on technical-scientific tools to improve the management of fisheries in Galapagos.

The objective of the project is to understand the socio-ecologic fishing system of Galapagos to provide updated information and to improve the management of the fisheries in the islands.

Our results

We have generated very important research about Galapagos fisheries. We know that the Galapagos grouper, the white-spotted sand bass and the mottled scorpionfish are long-lived species that need several years for reproduction. This means that they are species very vulnerable to overexploitation. Indeed, our data indicates that the three species are overexploited in Galapagos (Usseglio et al. 2015; Salinas-de-León et al. 2017; Salinas-de-León et al. 2015; Marin Jarrín et al. 2018).


Additionally, we obtained information about the first stages of life of fishes and crustaceans. We identified that zones between mangrove and sand beaches ecosystems are habitats of small pelagic fish species, such as sardine, herring and anchovies. These species are not only important for fisheries as bait, but also as food for boobies and sea lions. Also, we observed that the communities of crustaceans’ larvae have spatial and seasonal variations, probably caused by sea temperature, currents and nutrients (Eiler, 2018).

FCD staff collecting larvae with light traps.
FCD staff collecting larvae with light traps. Photo by: Daniela Vilema, FCD.

We updated information about distribution and dynamics of mangrove woods in Galapagos. This ecosystem, the most important for the growth of fishing species like fishes and lobsters, includes approximately 3,700 hectares in the Archipelago, covering 35% of the coast. Besides that, we demonstrated that the majority of mangroves are in a small area of less than 0.25 hectares. Multi-temporal spatial analysis showed that the mangrove coverage has increased 24% in the last ten years.

We demonstrated that Galapagos is one of the few sites in the world where the mangrove woods have increased in a natural way. This means they increased without human intervention in their reforestation, since people practically do not have any local anthropic impacts. It is important to note that we used an innovative and low-cost methodology of Google Earth’s high-resolution images that can be replicated in other coastal zones of the world (Moity et al. 2019).

Fisheries map.
Map by: Nicolás Moity y Byron Delgado / FCD.

Using the information about the distribution of mangroves in Galapagos, we quantified the value of three environmental services that this ecosystem provides: tourism, fisheries and Climate Change mitigation by storing CO2. This is the first study of this type in Ecuador (Tanner et al., 2019 in preparation).


Along with Galapagos National Park Directorate, we are assessing Fishing Aggregating Devises (FADs) as a sustainable tool for the fishery of pelagic fishes in Galapagos. Currently, we have found that the FADs attracted a huge amount of fish, 16 tons on average; however, there is not much interest for the fishers, mainly due to market reasons such as low prices and a small market (Moina, et al. 2018; Ramírez et al. 2019 in preparation).

Fishing Aggregating Devices with a satellite buoy attached that calculates the amount of fishes at different depths.
Fishing Aggregating Devices with a satellite buoy attached that calculates the amount of fishes at different depths. Photo by: Solange Andrade, FCD.

At present we continue studying life histories of fishes, collecting larvae, assessing FADs and we are going to start research lines in social and economic areas to have a better comprehension on the socio-ecologic fishing system of Galapagos.

Keywords: Fishery, fishes, lobsters, slipper lobster, sea cucumber

Bibliographical References

  • Buglass, S., Reyes, H., Ramírez-González, J., Eddy, T.D., Salinas-de-León, P. & Marín-Jarrín, J. (2018). Evaluating the effectiveness of coastal no-take zones of the Galapagos Marine Reserve for the red spiny lobster, Panulirus penicillatusMarine Policy. 88 (2018) 204–212
  • Eiler S M. (2018). Planktonic crustacean communities in the Galapagos Archipelago: Spatio-temporal changes and consequences for ecosystem production. Tesis de maestría. Stockholms Universitet. 50 pp.
  • Marín-Jarrín, J.R., & Salinas-de-León, P. (2019) en revisión. Effects of the 2016 El Niño on the Galapagos artisanal coastal fin-fish fishery. Galapagos Research
  • Marín-Jarrín, J.R., Andrade-Vera, S., Reyes-Ojedis, C. & Salinas-de-León, P. (2018). Life History of the Mottled Scorpionfish, Pontinus clemensi, in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Copeia. No.3:515-523
  • Moity, N. (2018). Evaluation of No-Take Zones in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, Zoning Plan 2000. Front. Mar. Sci. 5:244.
  • Moity, N., Delgado, B. & Salinas-de-León, P. (2019). Distribution and dynamics of mangrove forests in the Galapagos islands. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0209313.
  • Ramírez-González, J., Marín-Jarrín, J.R., Andrade-Vera, S., Tanner, M., Salinas-de-León, P., & Barragán, M.J. (2019). en revisión. Cómo lograr pesquerías sustentables de peces en Galápagos. Galapagos Report 2017-2018
  • Salinas-de-León, P., Bertolotti, A., Chong-Montenegro, C., Gomes-Do-Régo, M. & Preziosi, R.F. (2017). Reproductive biology of the endangered white-spotted sand bass Paralabrax albomaculatus endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Endangered Species Research. Vol 34:301-309.
  • Tanner, M.K., Olivares, M.F., Puebla, L., & Marín- Jarrín JR. (2019) en revisión. Shifting Fishing Effort from Depleted Coastal Fisheries towards Pelagic Resources in Darwin’s Archipelago: Attribute Non-Attendance in a Discrete Choice Experiment Application for Galapagos’ Certified Yellow-Fin Tuna. Marine Resource Economics (Special Issue on Attribute Non-Attendance).
  • Tanner, M.K., Moity, N., Costa, M.T., Jarrin, J.M., Aburto-Oropeza, O., & Salinas-de-León, P. (2019). en revisión. Mangroves in the Galapagos: Ecosystem services and their valuation. Ecol. Econ.
  • Usseglio, P., Friedlander, A.M., Koike, H., Zimmerhackel, J., Schuhbauer, A., Eddy, T. & Salinas-de-León, P. (2016). So Long and Thanks for All the Fish: Overexploitation of the Regionally Endemic Galapagos Grouper Mycteroperca olfax (Jenyns, 1840). PLoS ONE. 11(10): e0165167.

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