Tourism and fisheries comprise the economic backbone of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and the Archipelago of San Andres, Colombia. The health of fishery resources, the environment and their dependant industries is discussed against a background of policy development and user conflicts, supported by a range of technical studies undertaken between 1998 and 2002, setting the scene for an examination of a more participatory and effective role for local stakeholders in the management of their island resources. Local stakeholders have been involved in guiding plans on future management of both islands' resources including Biosphere Reserve designation of the San Andres Archipelago and the development of a Special Law for Galapagos. Their participation is deemed essential to progress in marine resource management and zoning initiatives within the islands. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.