The waters surrounding the Galápagos islands have already been protected since 1998 by the Galápagos Marine Reserve, which spans more than 50,000 square miles around the archipelago and is listed as a World Heritage Site. However, while industrial fishing was banned inside the reserve, smaller-scale artisanal fishing was still permitted throughout most of the area. The new sanctuary will designate several areas within the marine reserve as “no-take” zones, meaning no fishing will be permitted at all.
The largest section of the new sanctuary will include nearly 15,000 square miles of ocean surrounding Darwin and Wolf, the two northernmost islands in the archipelago, as well as several other smaller areas around the rest of the Galápagos islands. In these places, scientific expeditions and tourism will be permitted — but no “taking” of natural resources, including fishing, even by small local operations. Overall, about a third of the entire Galápagos Marine Reserve will now be designated as a no-take zone. These protections are particularly targetted to protect the numerous species of endangered sharks that inhabit the region, including the hammerhead. The marine reserve will serve as a shark sanctuary, protecting an area that has the world's highest abundance of sharks.