Galapagos fishes are not well known…
Potential travelers to the Galapagos Islands are incredibly exposed to all kinds of media influences when it comes to island wildlife: magazines, natural history shows, museums, tv documentaries, social media, etc. This is really good because it visually puts the experience right in the hands and mind of the consumer (the explorer to be). However, when guests explore the islands, most are actually surprised of how much of the underwater world is never mentioned during the promotional/selling process of this destination. Thus, if you are motivated enough to travel to the Galapagos Islands, please know that the marine world will be as stunning as the terrestrial world of this unique tropical archipelago.
Why is this Galapagos Marine Reserve so important?
Probably we can say that when Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835, did perhaps the first natural-history collection of Galapagos fishes. According to the book Zoology of the HMS Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin collected a total of 15 species and were all described much later by Leonard Jenyns in 1842. Although many other small-scale ichthyo-expeditions came through, nothing tops the early monumental work done by the California Academy of Sciences during their 1905-1906 expedition. Then, in 1923, it was the famous William Beebe that decides to take the marine importance of the Galápagos to the next level. Several important expeditions to the islands took place in the mid and late 1900s, and it is in 1986 that the marine resource receives a different management category due to the deeper understanding of its value. This is how the islands were declared a Marine Reserve. Furthermore, UNESCO recognizes the need for international awareness and protection and in 2001 inscribes the marine protected area in the list of Natural World Heritage Sites.
Ecuador proudly manages the marine resource of the Galapagos, and it now extends to 133,000 Km2 (51,000 mi2). Undoubtedly, the marine realm of the islands supports a very large number of terrestrial processes. These is the main reason why exploring programs in the Galapagos Islands include snorkeling, scuba diving, panga coastal exploration, kayaking, and even glass-bottom boat outings.
Although this sounds like a gastronomic invitation, make sure that with your mask on you develop a unique appreciation of the many Galapagos fishes you will see while exploring underwater. What seems so unique is the bizarre combination of tropical fish species at probably the coolest tropical place. This can also be interpreted as the most dramatic encounter of subtropical fishes at one warm tropical location. Ocean currents of many origins and their different biological conditions have shaped the islands’ marine fauna in five marine zones giving us today a total of 2,900 species with an endemism level of 25%. There may be anywhere around 500 fish species in the islands (not counting the benthic deep species), which brings an invitation to all snorkelers, divers, and ocean lovers to look at the islands from a different perspective: Enjoy Your Fishes!
Text and Photography: Francisco “Pancho” Dousdebés