Five diving [tour] companies in the Galapagos Islands have been banned from diving after more than 6 years of operation because, well, we are not sure.
The Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) and the Ministry of Tourism have decided to introduce permits for all of the dive companies in the Galapagos Islands. Excellent idea, yes, but they have also put out of business 5 of the long standing dive companies until the criteria for these permits becomes available.
This ban began in November 2010, the criteria were promised in January 2011 and still, now in August 2011 nothing has materialized. No criteria have been given and the ban remains.
These five companies have continued to work and fight for their rights but are losing money and their reputations on a daily basis when they are stopped by the National Park Rangers from delivering their diving services to their paying customers. They employ up to 20 people at a time, 100 local Ecuadorian people are out of work when these companies do not function, but no one seems to care.
The minister for tourism, Freddy Ehlers, knows all about the situation faced by these struggling small businesses but is also sitting on the fence, “wait for the criteria,” he says.
The Ministry of Tourism has on its website as one of their missions: “Understanding the value of the country’s cultural and natural heritage through balanced development.” Ecuadorian people own all these diving centers; they have no foreign investment, which is perhaps their problem; and, of all the industries in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, the tourism ministry knows the value of the natural environment. Without it they would be nothing.
With so much foreign interest and investment in the Galapagos Islands, [Ecuador’s] Ministry of Tourism should be supporting the locally owned and ran small businesses instead of beating them down until they can’t breath.
Paging: Tourism Minister Freddy Ehlers, how can we live?