Illegal Shark Fishing Continues in Galapagos

October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

From El Commercial

Illegal shark fishing continues in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The draft boat operations within the marine reserve is against the law because Sharks are considered a protected species.

Despite the seriousness of these actions, which are considered environmental crimes, and therefore punishable by imprisonment for those involved, the prosecution authorities, the National Park Service and several environmental organizations are very concerned because the judges have released all detainees.

The authorities of Marine Resources and the Office of Environment conducted an operation in the bay and located 225 shark fins. The prosecutor of the Environment, Jose Cevallos, reported that along with the Police authorities, Navy and National Park (PNG) are carried out constant surveillance operations and intelligence to locate the fishing boats illegally entering the Reserve.  However, these criminal operations could be increased, warned Cevallos, encouraged by the performance concessive and accomplice of some judges.

Since last July have been located and captured two ships of industrial fishing in the reserve: the Mary Fer I and six fibers, discovered on July 18.  In that boat were transported 357 sharks, 20 miles inside the reserve. 22 crew members were also captured.

On September 17, Navy personnel stopped fishing the Reina del Cisne and two fibers, which were fishing 34 miles from Punta Pitt on San Cristobal Island (6 miles within the Reserve).  Given the blatant crime, the prosecutor acted Cevallos office, in coordination with the park authorities, filing appropriate actions before Judge Criminal Guarantees First, Jorge Cabrera Monserrate, who initially ordered the imprisonment of 12 people.

Unexpectedly, the judge on Tuesday declared the nullity of this trial, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the process that should be handled in Superior Court in Guayaquil.

“I just made the judge is an outrage, because it is failing against the provisions of the Special Law for Galapagos, which empowers judges to judge the islands environmental crimes, even if there is a Superior Court.  Is setting a disastrous precedent, “said Carlos Zapata, Conservation Sector, Science and Education of Galapagos.

Once declared invalid, the judge lifted the arrest warrants and the seizure of the ship, and authorized their departure.

It is not the first time that judges everything thrown into contrast the combined work of the authorities.  Edwin Naula, head of PNG, said the judges in the Galapagos have shown what is a constant in the whole country, not just failure to apply, according to law. One of the most outrageous, he added, is that of Mary Fer, the judge changed the precautionary measures by releasing the 20 involved, and only two remain in the Galapagos with the obligation to appear in court weekly.  “In practice we have a process without charge, resulting in impunity and the consequent stimulus to this illegal activity.”

Judicial decisions have also raised alarm among representatives of international foundations.  Alex Cornelissen, director of Sea Shepherd, did not hide his anger over the latest court decisions, “do not help strengthen the culture of single-species conservation in the Galapagos Islands.”  Read the Sea Shepherd plea regarding Lady Justice has abandoned Galapagos

Last August, the Conservation Sector, Science and Education sent an official letter asking the Judicial Council to take action on the matter and monitor the performance of judges.  The letter has not been answered yet.

A judicial Recourse

The Conservation Sector, Science and Education submitted an amicus curiae on 26 September before the Environmental Office and the First Court of Criminal Guarantees Galapagos. This resource is part of the monitoring vessel to the case of Mary Fer I.

This resource is a form of citizen participation, which allows the company to provide specialized legal advice and relevant information about a specific case and inform the judge about environmental issues.

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