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Can I Fish in the Galapagos?
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Vivencial Fishing...

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Is “Sport Fishing” Legal in the Galapagos?


Can I Fish in the Galapagos?


Can I Fish for Marlin, Tuna, Wahoo, etc.?


Does This Make Sense?

You decide...

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There are no easy answers...

Nonetheless, if you support the notion of sustainable and responsible “Eco-tourism” (with a focus on local management and benefit) we are confident that you will understand the answer to this riddle. Read this section, together with the page: What is Vivencial Fishing?

Recreational Fishing, call it “Sport Fishing” if you like, is a sensitive and rather contentious issue here in the Galapagos.

Sport Fishing”, at least by that name, is illegal in the Galapagos Marine Reserve - However “Vivencial Fishing” is permitted subject to licensing and regulations set by the Galapagos National Park.

The essential distinction of Vivencial Fishing is that it can only be offered by fishermen of the Galapagos. Further regulations distinguishing Vivencial Fishing from Sport Fishing include the following:

  • Maximum size and power of the boat (7.5 to 12.5m with 2 motors up to 300HP each)
  • Fish that may not be targeted (sharks & rays)
  • Fish that can be extracted (up to 50lbs per trip excluding the above plus all billfish which must be released unharmed)
  • Extracted fish cannot be sold commercially.
  • Hours of fishing (5:00am to 7:00pm)
  • Annual renewal of all licences & permits subject to good standing with the regulations.

As for permitted fishing methods, they include the normal sport fishing techniques such as trolling, popping, jigging, fly-fishing, etc. Spearfishing is not permitted.

So the bottom line is: Yes - You can enjoy all the thrills normally associated with Sport Fishing but only on a boat and with an operator licensed to offer Vivencial Fishing, and subject to the special Vivencial Fishing regulations issued by the Galapagos National Park.

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A Licensed Operation?

If you want to be sure that you are dealing with a properly licensed operation ask to see their permits. As of December, 2012, they include the following:

  • The boat’s license: (Autorizacion...) issued by the Park recording the name of the boat and it’s legal owner.
  • The boat-owner’s permit to fish (PARMA) issued by the Galapagos National Park, confirming that they are a licensed commercial (Artisanal) fisherman.
  • The Port Registry Certificate (Matricula), identifying the boat, the owner and the type of boat which should state “Pesca Vivencial”.

To review the licenses and permits issued to Maria Elena and Leodan, click on any of the images opposite.

Finally, the boat should display its Galapagos National Park registration number, something along the lines of:

          RMG 01-021-12-PAV

Leodan - Permiso de Pesca 2012F
Parma 1
Leodan - Matricula 2012_Page_1

Ask the Park

The Galapagos National Park has a web page dedicated to Vivencial Fishing, although, in the English version,  they call it: “Experiential Responsible Fishing”!  We trust they won’t mind if we just call it Vivencial Fishing.

At the foot of the Park page is a table of licensed Vivencial Fishing boats. The table is not updated on a regular basis, so we can’t vouch for its accuracy.

Image on right is linked to Park page......


GNP Website

Fishing, of any type, in the Galapagos Marine Reserve is regulated by the Galapagos National Park and there are only a handful of operators licensed to offer Vivencial Fishing to visitors. The principal of Galeodan, Maria Elena Ricaurte, herself the daughter of a fisherman, is one of the few. Maria Elena’s father, Carlos Ricaurte Granda, was the originator and driving force behind Artisanal Vivencial Fishing and was closely involved at every stage of its acceptance and development.

For more information about Vivencial Fishing, particularly its history and rationale, please visit the page: “What is Vivencial Fishing?”.

What About the “Pirates”?

Notwithstanding the Regulations, there has always been a small number of enterprising fishermen who are determined to claim a share in the tourist-fishing market. With few exceptions, their activities pass unnoticed and without complaint by their licensed colleagues. We offer these observations:


Operational fishing boats are licensed at least for “artisanal” commercial fishing, if not Vivencial Fishing. Their licenses are subject to inspection for seaworthiness and safety, albeit not to the level and rigour applied to the Vivencial Fishing boats which are expected to carry tourists. Vivencial Fishing boats have to comply with stricter standards, including safety and emergency equipment and 2 motors for security.


If you are paying a cut-rate price to go with a Pirate, you should expect no more than you pay for in terms of comfort and equipment. On the other hand, possession of a license and a higher price is no guarantee either.


Most, but not all, of the Pirates are practising commercial fisherman who know very well where to catch the fish. And they have a definite interest in doing as they can sell the catch for additional income. Vivencial Fishing regulations prohibit selling the catch but these guys are operating outside the law anyway.

Legality & How it Affects You:

For the most part, the Pirates go about their trade unmolested by the Park or the Port Authority. However, now and again, they conduct a “blitz” and for a matter of weeks will be boarding every boat in sight to check documents and licenses which must always be on board and ready for inspection. Expect your fishing day to be cut short and to be looking for a licensed boat the next day - If any are still available (unlikely under the circumstances).

GNP Inspection


A visit from the Galapagos National Park and Port Authority (Capitania) who routinely board our boats to check documents, equipment etc.

Testaferros - Neccessary Evil or Eco-Compromise?

Testaferro - Spanish for figurehead, front man - Someone who lends his name (and in this case, license) to another to facilitate a business or transaction.

A Vivencial Fishing boat must be owned by a local fisherman. However, few have the financial resources to build, purchase and then equip a boat suitable to the expectations of the offshore angling market (Pesca Altura). And it is the big-game, such as striped marlin, for which these waters are famous and draw anglers from across the globe.

Regulations limit the size of boat and its engines. Nonetheless, at upwards of $30,000, each of the 200HP motors required to propel a 10m boat like Leodan costs more than a Toyota Camry.

Fishing tackle has to be imported from the United States and is subject to extortionate delivery charges and import duties (up to 80%) which are even applied to the delivery cost. Outfitting a boat here costs easily twice as much as in the U.S.A.

Even equipping a smaller (Pesca Chica) boat to meet the Park and Port Authority safety regulations represents a significant financial challenge.

So its no surprise so many of the Vivencial Fishing operations are financed and some even operated offshore with a local fishermen as the testaferro (“official” owner of the boat). How much of the benefit stays in Galapagos we don’t really know but its a safe bet the local participants (testaferro, captain, mate etc.) are better off than being shut out of the market completely for lack of funds; Testaferros are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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