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Ecuadorian fishing vessel transporting sharks apprehended in the Galapagos

A ranger from Galapagos National Park inspects sharks onboard the Don Gerard V.

On Friday, an Ecuadorian fishing vessel was caught transporting sharks and other protected species in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Its 23 crew members and eight minor fiberglass vessels were apprehended by the Galapagos National Park rangers and Ecuadorian Navy for illegal possession and transport of protected species.

The Manta, Ecuador-based fishing vessel, Don Gerard V, was detected using the Galapagos National Park Service’s VMS system procured and installed by WildAid, WWF, Conservation International and Sea Shepherd in 2009. The Galapagos National Park control center monitored its trajectory while the park’s patrol vessel and plane sped towards the fishing vessel, having been alerted to this suspicious activity. Galapagos Park Rangers and Ecuadorian Navy officials intercepted the vessel two miles within the reserve, near the island of Genovesa and arrested its crew of 23. Upon inspecting one of its cargo holds, they found 30 sharks on board including thresher, silky and blue sharks, as well as albacore tunas and swordfish. The vessel contains one more cargo hold that will be searched pending judicial approval.

The Don Gerard V was caught in illegal possession and transport of protected species.

Galapagos National Park Director, Walter Bustos, stated that “this new apprehension reflects the high level of preparation and professionalism that the park rangers of the Galapagos National Park Service have.” The crew of the boat, was taken to Baltra Island for processing and after approval from a judge on December 16, they are being detained for possession and illegal transport of protected species. The vessel was seized and is currently in the Navy’s custody pending court proceedings and the judge has ordered destruction of the catch after the appropriate procedures. 

An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year for the illegal shark fin trade around the world. To stop shark finning in the Galapagos, WildAid works with park rangers to monitor the vast reserve and prevent illegal fishing. Last year, Ecuador announced that all its vessels, no matter their size, will be monitored in real time. The previous legislation mandated hourly monitoring only for larger vessels, leaving small vessels to navigate unchecked. Together, WWF, Sea Shepherd and WildAid procured and installed AIS transceivers and software to complement the existing VMS satellite technology system in the park’s control center to track all fishing and tourism vessels. In August, the Galapagos National Park rangers arrested a Chinese cargo vessel with over 6,000 sharks in its hold. This apprehension marks the second arrest since the installation of AIS this year and the third since the announcement last year of a marine sanctuary at Darwin and Wolf to protect sharks.

WildAid has used its comprehensive marine protection model to decrease illegal fishing and protect nearly 3,000 marine species in the Galapagos Marine Reserve since 2002 thanks to the support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Angermeyer Cruises, Conservation International, IGTOA, the Walton Family Foundation and WWF.