In November 2017, we wrote a blog about the successful prosecution of the crew of a Chinese fishing vessel found in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) with thousands of sharks onboard. This was a fantastic result for the Galapagos National Park Directive and will hopefully act as a strong deterrent against future illegal fishing activitiy in the GMR by foreign vessels.
At the time, a letter was written to Science Magazine by leading shark experts who work in Galapagos warning that while foreign vessels do pose a threat to sharks in the GMR, “… the effect of Ecuador’s own artisanal longline fleet on these species should not be overlooked.” Ecuadorian vessels are allowed to land sharks as ‘by-catch’ outside of the Galapagos Marine Reserve and research suggests that at least 250,000 sharks are landed annually by the Ecuadorian fishing fleet.
On Thursday 14 December 2017, the Galapagos National Park captured an Ecuadorian fishing vessel ‘Don Gerard V’ which was found two miles inside of the GMR. An expert survey of the boat, revealed a total of 156 individual sharks including silky sharks which are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and, according to CITES, are one of the three most traded shark species in the global shark fin trade. While only a small vessel, this incident involving a domestic fishing boat demonstrates that Ecuador’s sharks are also facing threats from within.
On Wednesday 10 January 2018, the captain of the boat was sentenced to three years in prison for transport and possession of species protected in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, and the majority of crew members to one and a half years as accomplices. In addition, a fine was issued for over $300,000.
According to the Galapagos National Park, 19 ships have now been captured in the GMR since 2009. Hopefully the swift action of the Galapagos National Park and this latest prosecution will act as a warning to domestic and foreign fishing vessels alike.
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