Over the past weeks, heightened tensions have again placed the future of marine life of the Galapagos Islands into question. Beloved to students of evolution the world around, the Galapagos Islands -- and its unique wildlife -- are threatened by human population growth, invader species, and commercial fishing. Recently, the fishing of a rare variety of sea cucumber, Ischitopus fuscus, has gained international attention. The demand for sea cucumbers, which are used in cuisine in France and China, has risen over the past decade, resulting in the export of millions of sea cucumbers. In 1992, the Ecuadorian government imposed a ban on the fishing of sea cucumbers, but poaching continued at an alarming rate. In 1995, armed sea cucumber fishermen took over the ecologically famous Charles Darwin Research Station, forcing the return of the sea cucumber harvest. In 1998, the Ecuadorian government passed a series of sweeping protective measures (The Galapagos Conservation Law) for the Galapagos Islands. Despite enthusiasm from the international community, the new laws again seem uncertain in their effectiveness. This week's In The News chronicles recent events in the Galapagos, and the eight resources listed provide background information on the Galapagos and sea cucumbers.


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