With the installation of the last six remaining repeater stations in strategic positions throughout the Galapagos Islands, Sea Shepherd Galapagos has completed building the infrastructure for the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Thanks to the assistance from the national park’s vessel the Sierra Negra as well as the use of a helicopter, specially hired by Sea Shepherd for this occasion, we just completed a two-week journey through the Galapagos National Park (GNP). During this trip, remote and completely inaccessible locations were chosen as the ideal locations for the installation of the repeaters.
In order for the AIS repeaters to pick up signals from the boats, an elevated location is ideal. Therefore, all repeater sites were built on top of volcanoes, some of them still active. The risk of loosing a site due to “lava damage” is well compensated by the advantage we get from the height. The inaccessibility also guarantees protection from possible vandalism.
“There is simply no way we could have done this without air support. This equipment cannot simply be transported through these patches of cold lava all the way to the tops of the volcanoes, unless we are willing to sacrifice a few people’s lives in the process. Galapagos logistics are a nightmare and Sea Shepherd put them to the ultimate test,” commented Project manager Marcel Wensveen.
All sites are built using solar panels and battery banks and can operate independently for at least a decade, at which point the batteries would need to be replaced. The main control center was installed prior to the site installation, so the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) can now monitor all movement of vessels that are already equipped with AIS. Shortly from now, we will commence with the installation of the AIS devices on all remaining boats that operate within the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).
During the installation of the sites, we used the helicopter to remove discarded materials from these sites. These materials were discarded during other projects but due to the inaccessibility could not be removed prior to our trip.
The AIS project was made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. It provides local authorities a powerful tool against poaching and increases operational efficiency. Sea Shepherd is convinced this is not one but several steps forward towards the protection of this unique but fragile place on earth.