QUITO, ECUADOR (AFP) – A court in Ecuador remanded in custody the Chinese crew of a fishing boat suspected of catching endangered sharks in the Galapagos Islands marine reserve, a minister said.
The Chinese-flagged Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was caught on Sunday with 300 tonnes of fish, mostly sharks, including protected species such as the hammerhead, said Ecuador’s environment minister Tarsicio Granizo.
“There were thousands, if not tens of thousands, of sharks,” said marine ecologist Pelayo Salinas. “This is going to be historic. The biggest seizure of sharks in the history of the Galápagos, for sure.”
A judge on the island of San Cristobal ordered the ship’s crew of about 20 to be held in custody pending court proceedings, Granizo told a news conference in the capital Quito.
“Not necessarily all of the catch came from the marine reserve, but the fact that it included young sharks, even baby sharks, indicates that they could have been caught inside the reserve,” the minister said.
Ecuadoran law allows prison sentences of up to three years for crimes against protected flora and fauna. However, as the National Geographic notes there may be larger forces at work here: “China is Ecuador’s largest creditor, providing some 60 percent of the government’s funding, and critics have accused Ecuador of being lenient with China when it comes to protection of timber and other natural resources in the Amazon rain forest.”
[Images via Galapagos National Park Directorate]
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