Galapagos cleanup, prevention to cost $2M

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NEW YORK -- Clean-up efforts following the Jan. 16 oil spill in the Galapagos Islands and measures to deal with future environmental disasters there could cost more than $2 million, staff at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island said.

Tourism companies that operate in the region so far have pledged to donate more than $50,000, and some have set up matching grant challenges, as follows:

  • The International Galapagos Tour Operators Association donated $5,000 to the Charles Darwin Foundation and appealed to its 39 members to each donate at least $500 each.
  • New York-based Special Expeditions contributed $15,000 in emergency funds and said it would match its passengers' contributions up to $25,000.
  • Ecoventura, based in Ecuador, donated $6,000 to the Galapagos National Park. It also offered one of its 20-passenger motor yachts at a discounted charter rate of $25,000, with the entire proceeds earmarked for the clean-up effort.
  • Metropolitan Touring, in Ecuador, volunteered its cargo ship for hauling supplies to the Galapagos from mainland Ecuador and said it would match up to $25,000 contributed by its passengers through Feb. 28.
  • It advanced $10,000 of that amount to the clean-up effort and said it would contribute profits from the May 1 to 4 sailing of the Isabela II yacht. A special cabin price of $1,800 is being offered.

  • Canodros, owner of the Galapagos Explorer II, donated $10,000 for clean-up efforts and volunteered a 20-man crew to join the operations in San Cristobal.
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    More donations are needed, however, according to station director Robert Bensted-Smith. "Control of the spill, clean up, ecological monitoring and development of the capability to prevent and manage further disasters in Galapagos are all expensive tasks," he said.

    The spill occurred when the Ecuadoran tanker Jessica ran aground on the rocks of Wreck Bay just off San Cristobal Island. The tanker had intended to off-load the fuel for the Galapagos Explorer II.

    The diesel oil spill reached Santa Fe Island, which remained closed to cruise visitors, and Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz, where volunteers raked in and sandbagged fuel that had come ashore. They also evacuated affected wildlife for special care.

    Sven Lindblad, president of Special Expeditions whose Polaris cruises year-round in the Galapagos, pointed out that "with world interest focused on Galapagos problems, the silver lining may be that the daily issues of importance to preservation of fragile environments will get more attention."

    Donations to aid in the clean-up can be made to the Charles Darwin Foundation, 100 N. Washington St., Falls Church, Va. 22046; (703) 538-6833; Web www.galapagos.org.

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