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Los Roques National Park is presently threatened by:

Illegal fishing
Wastewater management
Solid waste disposal
Lack of personnel and infrastructure
Lack of institutional capacity
Lack of personnel, infrastructure, and signs 


Lack of institutional capacity

In Los Roques Archipelago National Park, management has focused on urban
planning and tourist activities, without giving much attention to areas that are not
related to tourism. Because of the different aspects that require state control or
supervision, a great number of government agencies exist in Los Roques. Even
though the duty of the Autoridad Única de Área (AUA) is to coordinate the
functions of other organizations, hierarchies and responsibilities are not clear.
Many of these organizations are dependencies of the Ministry of the Environment.
However, assigned budgets are noticeably different, which interferes with their
capability to adequately accomplish their obligations. 

The AUA serves as a local government in charge of providing public services to
the people of Gran Roque. Although this is only a small part of park
management, it is considered the most important, obvious by the size and
budget of this institution. Most of AUA's income (400 million bolívares per year)
comes from tourist entrance fees and taxes paid by lodges and other
concessions. On the other hand, INPARQUES receives insufficient funds (30
million Bolívares per year) from the central administration and very little income,
if any at all, from other sources. In Los Roques, the AUA has 50 employees that
work in Gran Roque. INPARQUES, however, has only 10 employees that are in
charge of educational activities and guarding the entire park. This difference in
administrative capabilities affects how well they perform their duties; for example,
when garbage accumulation in recreation zones is compared to that in higher
protection zones (see solid waste contamination).

Lack of personnel and infrastructure

The park has seven active park guards. Most of them are from other non-marine
parts of the country and there are some who do not have the skills needed
(swimming and boat navigation) to do their job well. A noteworthy exception to
this is park guard Toribio Mata. For over 26 years, he has worked for INPARQUES,
and he is the park's most experienced guard. One out of seven park guards
stays at the Dos Mosquises guard post station. The rest remain at the main
guard post in Gran Roque, while the Crasquí post is unmanned. 
In addition, INPARQUES does not have enough boats for control and guard
duties. Only one of three boats is in working order; the one recently donated be
the AECI. The other two present have mechanical problems. The lack of boats,
and the fact that not all park guards are capable of driving them, reduces the
ability to guard the park and to detect environmental infractions. 

Solid waste disposal

During our visit to the Integral Protection Zones of lower Canquí, upper Canquí,
and Isla Larga, we noticed a large amount of garbage on the shore of these
islands. However, on Sarquí Island, a Managed Natural Environment, we noticed
that most of the garbage was inland. During the high tourist season, Sarquí
Island is visited by a number of boats, even though it is not a recreational zone
most air-travelers visit.

:see picture 09:

The garbage was mostly plastic waste, and bottles, cans of fuel and oil for
outboard motors. Most of the items found in the waste were brands that are not
commercially distributed in Venezuela. We believe that they are tossed by foreign
boats visiting the park, those of tourists in their yachts and/or from cargo boats
that buy fish in Los Roques and sell it to other Caribbean islands. It is also
possible that some of the waste comes from other Antillean countries through
marine currents to the coasts of Los Roques. Waste accumulates in these
"protected" zones because cleaning efforts are not as frequent as in recreational
zones. INPARQUES, which has less budget and personnel than the AUA, is
responsible for cleaning of non-recreational zones.

We did not observe accumulated garbage either in the Francisquí Recreational
Zone or in the Gran Roque Special Use Zone. This is due to the fact that
concession owners are obligated to maintain clean islands, and also because
tourist operators return the garbage generated by their tourists to Gran Roque.
The AUA maintains a biweekly garbage collection program on the island and in
other recreational zones. Garbage is sorted by its type (plastic, metal, paper) by
the solid waste management program, and it is then either incinerated or shipped
to the mainland depending on its type. In the past, garbage was sorted by
collectors before it was taken to the incinerator, now, it is sorted onsite at the
incinerator plant. We must take into consideration the fact that
ParksWatch-Venezuela visited the park during the low-tourist season. The
efficiency of solid waste management should also be verified during the high
season.

Wastewater management

Gran Roque Island has inadequate wastewater management. Household septic
tanks do not have adequate control and are not cleaned regularly. In 1999, an
investigation done by the Environmental Quality Division of the Ministry of the
Environment, determined that certain Gran Roque Island beaches presented
bacteria, fungi, and fecal bacteria densities above legal permissible limits. During
the rainy season, investigators that work in the park have reported foul odors.
One of the park guards told us the foul odors spread because ill-maintained
septic tanks filter out when the water table rises. It is necessary to evaluate if
sewage management in Gran Roque could be affecting the park's marine
ecosystem or the island inhabitants.

Illegal fishing

The over-fishing of certain highly sought after species has seriously affected
these populations even before the archipelago was decreed a national park. The
queen conch (Strombus gigas) and lobster (Panulirus argus) are the most affected
species, producing over 90% of the nation's total production in 1987 (Posada &
Álvarez 1988). Studies carried out by Los Roques Foundation determined that
almost 70% of the extracted queen conchs were juveniles and the adult
population had decreased by 17.6% (Posada & Álvarez 1988). As a result of
these studies, the fishing season for the gasteropod has been closed indefinitely
since 1991. 

Regardless of the prohibition, queen conch fishing has continued illegally. This
has caused animosity between INPARQUES and some fishers who on one occasion
attacked the park guards and biological station personnel. The enormous
mountains of shells on Isla Fernando, La Pelona, Cayo Sal, and Carenero,
among others, are evidence of the scale of queen conch extraction. From April
through November, when the lobster season is closed, queen conch poaching
intensifies (Matos 2000). In two hours, up to 700 conchs can be captured (Posada
& Álvarez 1988). Similarly, while lobster is protected during its reproductive
season, fishing is still a common activity, including that of small fish, also
prohibited by law (Yallonardo 2001). 

:see pictuer 10:

Fishing in restricted zones is one of the most frequent violations in the park.
Also, fishers usually do not report their entire catch to the fisheries authority
(currently SARPA). In 1987, research determined that the harvest of fish for that
season was 1,316,327 kg, and only 277,062 kg of these were reported (Posada &
Brunetti 1988). Most of the illegal commerce of the fish catch occurs in Aruba,
Curacao, and Bonaire where prices are better, which explains the reason why
fishers do not report their total catch. There is also illegal harvesting of other
species. In 1996, a ship bound for Japan with a 500 kg sea cucumber cargo
valued at US $150,000, was confiscated in Los Roques.
In regard to the sea turtles that live in the park, Guada & Vernet (1992)
estimated that 500 sea turtles are poached annually. A recent study determined
that humans poach 30% of the nests laid by the four species of sea turtles that
nest in the park (De Los Llanos 2002). 


FUTURE THREATS

Population growth

The 2001 census performed by the AUA determined 1,209 people were living in
Los Roques. Even though there are no other censuses of equal quality, it is
possible to deduce a temporary growth out of the age structure of the population.
Most of the population (54%) is under 28 years of age and almost 30% is under
16 (AUA 2001). An important part of the population is between 28 and 40 years
of age (22%) who have lived in Los Roques less than 10-years (AUA 2001).
Apparently, they were attracted by the availability of jobs promoted by the tourist
industry since 1990.

Due to the lack of space for urban growth and the imminent collapse of already
deficient public services, population growth is in itself a threat. Crowding is
common and about 40 families are homeless. Before the end of the year, 24 of
these families will receive a home (AUA 2002). If migratory and reproductive
tendencies continue, in the next five years the demand for space will increase
dramatically.

Tourist industry growth

Because of the income generated by tourism in the last 10 years, INPARQUES
and AUA have expressed a desire to develop tourist activities in Los Roques.
Informal comments from both institutions express an interest to increase the
number of lodges and to even allow access to currently restricted zones.
Nevertheless, the ecological and economic effects of an increase in the number of
lodges in the park have not been evaluated.

Tourist accommodations in Gran Roque 

The tourist industry is practically monopolized by Aerotuy. Its airline is used by
49% of the tourists; 43% foreign tourists and 23% Venezuelan tourists stay in its
lodges (10% of total), and 33% of the national tourists buy tour packages in
Aerotuy's travel agency. The park's economy must be studied before the number
of lodges is increased. In this way, predicting whether or not more lodges will
benefit the park and/or the people of Gran Roque can be evaluated without risk.
It is possible that many lodges already do not receive enough money throughout
the year. If this were the case, the solution would be to evaluate the cause of
unequal demand of lodges, not to build more.

Los Roques has a management plan in which seven management
zones are outlined:

Integral Protection Zone: Made up of the islands Selesquí, Los Canquises,
Isla Larga and the Esparquí-Sebastopol-Boca de Cote complex, and
emergent zones around them like sand bars and reefs. Access is restricted
and only monitoring and research activities supervised by INPARQUES are
allowed. 
Primitive Zone: Includes the marine area that surrounds Selesquí Island
coral reef, Cayo Carenero, and part of the area that surrounds Los
Canquises (a distance of half a nautical mile [926 m]). Also included are
Cayo Sal, Dos Mosquises Norte, Cayo de Agua, Bequevé, and the East
Barrier, which contains the keys of Nordisquí, Cayo Vapor, Cayo Muerto,
Botosquí, Saquisaqui, among others (see map). 
Managed Natural Environment Zone: Includes the keys Remanso Isla
Felipe, Isla Fernando, Yonquí, Sarquí, Espenquí, Isla Agustín (Prestonquí),
Turquí, Sandquí, Cayo Loco, and Rabusquí. All areas that are not included
in any other category, as the waters that lie outside the archipelago but
that remain inside park limits, fall under this category. 
Recreation Zone: Includes Gran Roque islands, and the keys and reefs of
Francisquíes, Rasquí, Madrisquí, Cayo Pirata, Noronquises and Crasquí. 
Zone of Historic, Cultural, Archaeologic and Paleontologic Interest:
Includes certain sectors of Bequevé, Cayo de Agua, Dos Mosquises, middle
Noronquí, Cayo Sal, Los Canquises, Gran Roque, and Crasquí keys. 
Service Zone: Comprises areas of the park allotted for the installation of
infrastructure for tourism, scientific research, and anchoring zones for
boats. 
Special Use Zone: Includes all areas that have been affected or submitted
to activities that go against park rules to which special management plans
have been assigned. These are: 
Navigation Channel, a 100m wide waterway that determines the
entrance route to the park by sea. 
Dos Mosquises Sur key, includes the surface of this key and all
installations dedicated to scientific research. 
Gran Roque Island, where the only permanent human settlement is
found and the categories of Managed Natural Environment Zone,
Service Zone, Recreation Zone, and Traditional Human Settlement
Zone have been included on the island. 

According to the AUA's creation decree (1,214 of Gaceta Oficial N° 4,250E,
01/18/1991), this organization is in charge of administering public services and
urban regulations in Gran Roque Island, the fulfillment of the management plan
for the town and tourist activity control. The desalination plant that produces water
for human consumption, in addition to the electric plant and management of
waste, are all controlled by the AUA. Their operating expenses come almost
entirely from taxes paid by tourist operators in the park (restaurants and lodges)
and a visitor entrance fee. The AUA has 50 employees in Los Roques and
approximately 25 in Caracas.

In other respects, environmental regulation and administration of non-tourist
zones in the park fall under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Institute
(INPARQUES), the organization responsible for administration and management
of national parks in Venezuela. Aside from these two institutions (AUA and
INPARQUES), the Autonomous Fishery Service (SARPA), ascribed to the Ministry of
the Environment; regulates fishing activities in the archipelago with the help of
INPARQUES and the National Guard. 

INPARQUES has seven park guards and one superintendent (Ing. Jesús Durán)
that monitor and guard the park. Most of them are stationed at the Gran Roque
guard post. The Dos Mosquises post has one guard, and there are no permanent
personnel at the Crasquí post. The park has three boats with only one of them
working properly. The latter is an 18-foot boat with two 175 HP motors that was
donated by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation (AECI). The AECI
also donated computer equipment to the office of INPARQUES in Gran Roque.
The headquarters in Gran Roque, Dos Mosquises guard post, and the boat
donated by the AECI are all equipped with radios.

The park has three access routes by sea, all duly outlined in navigation charts
and marked by beacons. There is one beacon on the northeastern limits in the
Boca de Sebastopol (11° 46' N, 66° 35' W), another at the southwestern tip close
to Dos Mosquises (11° 48' N, 66° 54' W), and the third located around the north
access in Gran Roque Island. The islands visited by tourists are well marked.
However, Integral Protection Zones and Managed Natural Environment Zones
visited by ParksWatch-Venezuela lacked signs or the existing signs were not
properly maintained.

Los Roques has a management plan in which seven management
zones are outlined:

Integral Protection Zone: Made up of the islands Selesquí, Los Canquises,
Isla Larga and the Esparquí-Sebastopol-Boca de Cote complex, and
emergent zones around them like sand bars and reefs. Access is restricted
and only monitoring and research activities supervised by INPARQUES are
allowed. 
Primitive Zone: Includes the marine area that surrounds Selesquí Island
coral reef, Cayo Carenero, and part of the area that surrounds Los
Canquises (a distance of half a nautical mile [926 m]). Also included are
Cayo Sal, Dos Mosquises Norte, Cayo de Agua, Bequevé, and the East
Barrier, which contains the keys of Nordisquí, Cayo Vapor, Cayo Muerto,
Botosquí, Saquisaqui, among others (see map). 
Managed Natural Environment Zone: Includes the keys Remanso Isla
Felipe, Isla Fernando, Yonquí, Sarquí, Espenquí, Isla Agustín (Prestonquí),
Turquí, Sandquí, Cayo Loco, and Rabusquí. All areas that are not included
in any other category, as the waters that lie outside the archipelago but
that remain inside park limits, fall under this category. 
Recreation Zone: Includes Gran Roque islands, and the keys and reefs of
Francisquíes, Rasquí, Madrisquí, Cayo Pirata, Noronquises and Crasquí. 
Zone of Historic, Cultural, Archaeologic and Paleontologic Interest:
Includes certain sectors of Bequevé, Cayo de Agua, Dos Mosquises, middle
Noronquí, Cayo Sal, Los Canquises, Gran Roque, and Crasquí keys. 
Service Zone: Comprises areas of the park allotted for the installation of
infrastructure for tourism, scientific research, and anchoring zones for
boats. 
Special Use Zone: Includes all areas that have been affected or submitted
to activities that go against park rules to which special management plans
have been assigned. These are: 
Navigation Channel, a 100m wide waterway that determines the
entrance route to the park by sea. 
Dos Mosquises Sur key, includes the surface of this key and all
installations dedicated to scientific research. 
Gran Roque Island, where the only permanent human settlement is
found and the categories of Managed Natural Environment Zone,
Service Zone, Recreation Zone, and Traditional Human Settlement
Zone have been included on the island. 

According to the AUA's creation decree (1,214 of Gaceta Oficial N° 4,250E,
01/18/1991), this organization is in charge of administering public services and
urban regulations in Gran Roque Island, the fulfillment of the management plan
for the town and tourist activity control. The desalination plant that produces water
for human consumption, in addition to the electric plant and management of
waste, are all controlled by the AUA. Their operating expenses come almost
entirely from taxes paid by tourist operators in the park (restaurants and lodges)
and a visitor entrance fee. The AUA has 50 employees in Los Roques and
approximately 25 in Caracas.

In other respects, environmental regulation and administration of non-tourist
zones in the park fall under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Institute
(INPARQUES), the organization responsible for administration and management
of national parks in Venezuela. Aside from these two institutions (AUA and
INPARQUES), the Autonomous Fishery Service (SARPA), ascribed to the Ministry of
the Environment; regulates fishing activities in the archipelago with the help of
INPARQUES and the National Guard. 

INPARQUES has seven park guards and one superintendent (Ing. Jesús Durán)
that monitor and guard the park. Most of them are stationed at the Gran Roque
guard post. The Dos Mosquises post has one guard, and there are no permanent
personnel at the Crasquí post. The park has three boats with only one of them
working properly. The latter is an 18-foot boat with two 175 HP motors that was
donated by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation (AECI). The AECI
also donated computer equipment to the office of INPARQUES in Gran Roque.
The headquarters in Gran Roque, Dos Mosquises guard post, and the boat
donated by the AECI are all equipped with radios.

The park has three access routes by sea, all duly outlined in navigation charts
and marked by beacons. There is one beacon on the northeastern limits in the
Boca de Sebastopol (11° 46' N, 66° 35' W), another at the southwestern tip close
to Dos Mosquises (11° 48' N, 66° 54' W), and the third located around the north
access in Gran Roque Island. The islands visited by tourists are well marked.
However, Integral Protection Zones and Managed Natural Environment Zones
visited by ParksWatch-Venezuela lacked signs or the existing signs were not
properly maintained.


 


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