A UN panel has voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from its list of precious sites endangered by environmental threats or overuse.
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee backed a Brazilian recommendation to withdraw the islands from the list, saying the Ecuadorian government had made significant progress addressing threats to its island.
But the move was criticised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which said there was “still work to be done”.
The Galapagos – the chain of volcanic islands whose unique bird and animal life influenced Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories – were declared the first World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1978.
But they were added to the committee’s “red list” of endangered sites in 2007, amid concerns about a booming population and tourism, overfishing and the introduction of invasive species.
Meeting in the Brazilian capital Brasilia on Wednesday, the 21-member World Heritage Committee agreed by majority vote that the Ecuadorian government had made strides in strengthening conservation measures.
But the IUCN – which had initially recommended the addition of the Galapagos to the “red list” – criticised its removal.
“IUCN’s recommendation for the Galapagos was that it should not be removed from the Danger List as there is work still to be done,” said Tim Badman, head of its World Heritage Programme.
He said he recognised “the major efforts of the Ecuadorian government” but said “threats from tourism, invasive species and overfishing are still factors and the situation in the Galapagos remains critical”.
“We will need continued strong commitment from the Ecuadorean government over the coming years to resolve these issues.”