Published On: Wed, Aug 16th, 2017

Chinese fishing boat crew suspected of catching endangered sharks around Galapagos islands

Up to 300 tonnes of fish – including protected silky and hammerhead sharks – were seized when officials bordered the Chinese vessel inside the marine paradise.

Ecuador’s minister Tarsicio Ganizo said after a judge on the Galapagos island of San Cristobal ordered the 20 detained crew members to be kept in custody: “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 Chinese-registered Fu Yuab Yo Leng 999 was stopped after its movements were detected by a satellite tracking system used to monitor vessels inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site waters.

Pictures later emerged of Ecuadorian officials inspecting huge piles of sharks, where the distinctive shape of at least one hammerhead shark can be seen.

Ecuadorian media reported that various species were found on the vessel, including sharks listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Minister Ganizo said it will take a week to determine exactly what species of fish were inside the boat.

Ecuador has intercepted 18 vessels for fishing and trafficking protected fish over the past three years, but this Chinese vessel is reported to have been the largest seized inside the famous marine sanctuary.

In 2015, Ecuadorian police seized an estimated 200,000 shark fins that were destined for Asia where they are hailed as a delicacy in both Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine and served up at weddings and banquets.

Chinese consumption is said to have decline by up to 70 per cent between 2011 and 2013 as international concerns about the welfare of sharks intensified. 

Imitation soups have come on to the market but the most prized fins, often ripped off sharks while they are still alive, can fetch £300 per pound.

The Shark Trust says the trade is arguably the biggest threat to shark numbers and that experts in 2006 calculated the fins of up to 73 million sharks were being traded globally each year.

When Charles Darwin made his historic expedition to the islands on HMS Beagle in 1835, he wrote in his diary: “The bay swarmed with animals; fish, sharks and turtles were popping their heads up in all parts.”

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