In South America, are the tides turning against illegal fishing?


In August, the authorities of Ecuador prosecuted a Chinese language ship’s crew for illegally transporting endangered species, together with greater than 6,000 sharks. The case made headlines worldwide and was considered one of the largest busts so far of illegal fishing in the Galápagos Marine Reserve.

Not too long ago, Luis Suarez, vice chairman of Conservation Worldwide (CI) Ecuador, sat down with Human Nature to debate why this case obtained a lot worldwide consideration — and what the final result might imply for the world battle against illegal fishing.

Query: Take us by means of what occurred in August.

Reply: The Galápagos Marine Reserve detected a Chinese language ship inside a protected space utilizing Automated Identification System (AIS) expertise [a GPS system designed to detect nearby ships]. The Ecuadorean Military, Navy and Galápagos Marine Reserve employees approached the ship and despatched vessels to seize the boat. They boarded the boat and located a spectacular variety of species, together with endangered sharks. [The government asked] an area Conservation Worldwide worker to board the ship and to assist determine all of the species. Although technically it was a transportation boat [designed to carry the catch from other boats in the fleet], there have been quite a few fishing sources onboard. This mixture enabled the authorities to seize the boat and take authorized motion against the boat’s crew.

The best way the nationwide prosecutor selected to attempt the case was distinctive: The prosecutor took the case to court docket and used the argument that the ship was illegally transporting endangered species, with out point out of illegal fishing. And it’s true, the ship the authorities caught wasn’t fishing. It was an enormous transportation boat, which made it troublesome to show the place the species have been initially captured — prosecutors didn’t have sturdy proof that the species have been captured inside the Galápagos Marine Reserve, which is a protected space. Nonetheless, it was clear that the boat was transferring illegal species, and that’s the data the prosecutor might use: that this boat was transporting actually lots of of sharks and different endangered species that are legally protected.

Q: Why did it get a lot worldwide consideration?

A: Earlier than the case was even tried, I believe all people was simply completely shocked by the variety of species on the boat. Authorities discovered at the very least one whale shark, a number of juvenile sharks and quite a few different species, a lot of them endangered. Prosecuting this case and bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice turned a nationwide precedence, partially due to the sturdy relationship between the Galápagos Nationwide Park, the minister of the setting, the minister of marine operations and the president of Ecuador. In truth, the president commented on the case, saying that Ecuador wouldn’t tolerate illegal fishing as a result of Galápagos is a [UNESCO] World Heritage Web site.

There might have been severe repercussions due to the Ecuadorean authorities’s option to incarcerate the Chinese language crew. Due to the power and swiftness of the authorities’s response to this crime, and as a result of the president’s clear place on the matter, the Chinese language authorities has taken warning with the way it selected to reply to the matter. [Editor’s note: China’s ambassador in Quito, Wang Yulin, said in August that his country wanted to take all measures necessary to “put an end to these illicit practices.”]

Q: What was the final result of the case, and what has the response been because it got here out?

A: The Ecuadorean decide sentenced the 20 Chinese language fishermen with as much as 4 years in jail and fined them a complete of US$ 5.9 million for transporting endangered species off the Galápagos Islands.

This case reveals that the authorities had the political will to behave against fishing and illegal transportation of endangered species. I hope it will ship a robust message to the fishing sector that Ecuador’s taking severe actions against illegal fishing.

This case additionally helped draw consideration to simply how a lot illegal fishing is happening alongside the Galápagos, regardless of the protections. Pictures, photos and satellites revealed an enormous fleet of ships in the space, which shocked folks. The native fishers took this chance to indicate why the authorities must do one thing to cease illegal fishers from taking native fishers’ sources.

It was very attention-grabbing to see the Galápagos Marine Reserve, the native fishermen and the common inhabitants marching collectively against illegal fishing and telling all people, we have to do one thing about this. It triggered all people to say: “We need to do something.”

Q: Will this transformation issues in the Galápagos?

A: I believe it would. Past the fishers asking for assist given the dimension and scale of illegal fishing in the space, this case additionally spurred the Navy to inform the authorities they wanted extra assist, as a result of stopping illegal fishing requires extra sources for them to achieve success.

CI has supported the Galápagos Nationwide Park Service and the Navy in controlling and surveilling the Galapagos Marine Reserve by offering coaching and gear for years. We’ve been pissed off in the previous when boats doing illegal actions have been captured, however the punishments handed down weren’t very sturdy. In this case the stars have been aligned.

This was one case of illegal species transportation, nevertheless it’s emblematic of the constructive path Ecuador is taking to crack down on illegal fishing. One among the traits of this specific case was the agility and braveness proven by the Ecuadorean authorities, particularly given all of the stress from the Chinese language authorities and others. I believe the means it was dealt with gave us a preview of how illegal fishing will probably be dealt with in the future.

Luis Suarez is vice chairman of CI-Ecuador.

Morgan Lynch is a employees author for Conservation Worldwide.

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