Social/Ecological Change & Why It Matters
Migration and changes in land use have increased the human impact on the environment in the Galapagos.
Survival of the Family | 2013

Luis, Roberto, Juan and Manuel Nieto and their half-brothers Ernesto and Memin Pilamunga shared more than just a mother. Up until about three years ago, all six worked together in the fishing industry.

Fishing has long been a huge source of income for the people of Isabela. However, recent laws passed by the Galapagos National Park have made it a less viable way of life. Illegal fishing is not new for Galapagueños, who have resorted to reeling in sharks and harvesting pepiños against the wishes of the Park, though typically under the cover of darkness.

Overfishing was always a concern for the Park, and began to affect fishermen as well, as their catches dwindled. To combat this, the Park first passed laws mandating that all local boats must have special permits. In addition, the profession is extremely dangerous, and the fishing community has lost members at sea.

Facing these added obstacles, many Galapagueños, including Juan and Ernesto, gave up fishing in favor of making a living off tourism. Tourism provides less income, but it is far more stable. However, the Park also required tour boats to have permits. Originally, they gave 30. Now, they are looking to limit these permits to just six.

For Juan, Ernesto and others who have tried to adapt to the laws of the Park, they now must make a new decision. They can return to fishing, a dangerous profession where income can never be predicted, or continue working in tourism, even if illegally. Ernesto stated they would do whatever it takes to provide for their family, but the risks are great. In times like this, it helps to have a brother by your side.

The Park is still deciding how to distribute the six permits. Until then, the Nieto-Pilamungas will just have to cast their nets and hope for a catch.

"We all work, and we all need to work, because all we have is family."
-Juan Nieto