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Research study about Galápagos Sea Lions

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1,881 posts
30 reviews
Research study about Galápagos Sea Lions

For any science geeks out there--a recent study compared a group of young Galápagos Sea Lions from the large colony living off the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal) to a group of young sea lions on uninhabited Santa Fé. As reported on PlanetSave, “The research has found that the immune systems of the sea lions which live near human populations are in ‘overdrive’ as a result of human activity — impairing their health, making them less able hunters, and making them more prone to starvation.”

You can read a brief summary of the study here: planetsave.com/2013/… . If you'd like to read the full study on PLoS ONE--gory details, technical issues, and all--click here: plosone.org/article/…2Fjournal.pone.0067132 .


trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Quito, Ecuador
Level Contributor
10 posts
2 reviews
1. Re: Research study about Galápagos Sea Lions

This is really sad, but it is true. Unfortunately the towns in Galapagos keep on growing. Puerto Ayora now has over 18000 inhabitants, the town in study is Puerto Baquerizo which ranges in the 8000 inhabitant area, this study is scary enough, I cannot imagine what the figures would be for Puerto Ayora... On the other hand, is there a study in regards to the Sea Lions at the Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco, it is the same species. It would be interesting to compare. It only becomes more obvious because the Galapagos Islands are a protected area and it is one of the most pristine areas anywhere. 97% of the Galapagos National Park is uninhabited and unvisited, the 3% that is accessible includes the towns and visitor sites. Fortunately the rest is left untouched and only accessible to scientific studies.

As human beings we face a great challenge in protecting our planet, tourism has an impact and we have to recognize it, but commercial fishing and other activities are much worse. In the past 2 years the Galapagos Park Authority has managed to convince fisherman to turn in 2 permits for fishing in exchange for 1 permit for scuba diving tourism, in total 40 permits for commercial fishing were removed from the Galapagos archipelago and 20 scuba diving permits were granted. Unfortunately the good news, sometime is not news.


Level Contributor
1,881 posts
30 reviews
2. Re: Research study about Galápagos Sea Lions

Hi, Marcel--

In the full article, the authors place the immediate cause of the problem with the fact that some of the sewage from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno ends up in the bay that the sea lions frequent, which I didn't realize. Perhaps I'm just naive about those sorts of things in the archipelago. (The colonies living around the other 3 inhabited islands were too small for them to assess.)

I don't know anything about San Francisco, but I imagine we would know if raw sewage were being deposited into SF Bay. So, at least in my opinion, the comparison in this study was between sea lions living in 2 very extreme conditions--diluted sewage off San Cristóbal and much more pristine waters off Santa Fé. I would guess that a comparison with the SF sea lions would fall in between those 2.

Of course, if tourism didn't exist in the archipelago, the towns and their infrastructures wouldn't experience so much expansion pressure. So in that way, tourism is indeed an indirect--and perhaps even the root--cause.

One other small point--the Galápagos Sea Lion is a species endemic to the archipelago (Zalophus wollebacki)--found only in the Galápagos. The California Sea Lion (the species found in San Francisco, for example) is Z. californianus. So these 2 animals are closely related (in the same genus) but not the same species. However, they are likely affected similarly by things such as living with raw human sewage. (as would most of us mammals...)

Okay, okay--I confess. I AM a science geek...


trip report a thttp://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
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3,591 posts
19 reviews
3. Re: Research study about Galápagos Sea Lions

Dear Tina,

I lived in Galapagos for 4 years - the sewage system = flushing everything down into holes dug int the rocky ground. Of course, given that there is hardly any soil, and the rocks are all volcanic and full of fissures, there is hardly anything to keep that dirty water from seeping into the sea, unaffected. The waters around the towns in Galapagos are the most polluted. Even tap water in Puerto Ayora can give you skin problems. They extract it inland, from a deep well, but even there, it comes out a bit salty, plus full of e.coli. President Correa was in Galapagos 10 days ago, and made reference to this issue, and that a proper sewage treatment system would be put in place. But it won't be easy - everything is built on rock.

I've made this point many times before, but again - this is another reason that cruise ships have a smaller ecological footprint than land based. All the hotels that recently popped up to cater to land based visits are also dumping their sewage, essentially, right into the bays. I'm sure Puerto Ayora sea lions (fewer of them) suffer the same issues.

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Edited: 03 July 2013, 12:17
4. Re: Research study about Galápagos Sea Lions

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