Advocating for Environmental Justice in the Pacific Ocean
Commentary by Sea Shepherd Galapagos
After two years of advocacy, we now may be witnessing the beginning of judicial transformation in the Galapagos Islands. As part of a nationwide process, the national judicial authority of Ecuador is not only assessing the creation of the first judiciary specialized on environmental matters, but also its establishment in the Galapagos Islands.
If created, the pioneer environmental authority will be a model for improving judicial response in marine protected areas- an issue raised by Sea Shepherd since the very beginning of its advocacy towards judicial specialization on environmental law.
After two years, this legal project, which aims at enforcing marine protection laws in courts of law, has proven just how important the role of the judicial system could be for the protection of marine species. We have learned that for laws on marine protection to effectively rule, specialized judges are needed just as much as specialized policemen and prosecutors. At present, Galapagos may be on the verge of becoming the first archipelago, on this side of the Pacific, to inaugurate such judicial specialization.
Given the results of our law enforcement projects, we are currently assessing the option of replicating the legal project in other marine protected areas of the region, such as Cocos Island in Costa Rica.
For Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Cocos Island has always been an area of special concern even though it is protected. More than ever, we believe that Cocos Island, being the habitat of sharks and other species that migrate to Galapagos, could benefit from the judicial model that is being built here to better address the challenges of enforcing environmental law in marine protected areas.
As our ultimate goal is to reach regional aims, Sea Shepherd hopes to share all of our experience in this field, not only in Cocos, but also in Malpelo, and Coíba. When it comes to the protection of sharks in the Pacific, we should all cooperate on the achievement of common goals.