Chief Criminal Justice suspended over Shark Fishing decision

The Galapagos National Park Service reported this weekend that the National Judicial Council has suspended the Chief Criminal Justice for Galapagos for 90 days as a result of the lawsuit filed by the Galapagos National Park Service, for release FER MARY I boat, caught last year while fishing illegally in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

On July 18, 2011, the National Park speedboat Sea Ranger 2, captured the fishing boat FER MARY I and six small accompanying outboard skiffs, while it was completing fishing operations within the protected 20 miles of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.   In its holds, the Park Service personnel encountered a total of 379 sharks, a protected species in Galapagos.

The Park Service had initiated the appropriate administrative and criminal actions to sanction this infraction.  During the judicial process, the Chief Criminal Justice for Galapagos, Jorge Cabrera, decided to declare invalid the criminal process, resulting in the release of the arrested crew of the FER MARY I.

This was the second time that Mr. Cabrera had made this kind of ruling.  An earlier case involved the REINA DEL CISNE, also captured with 65 sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.  Such decisions completely undermine the very heavy investment in patrolling the Galapagos Marine Reserve, and send the wrong messages to the large industrial fishing interests that there are few repercussions for fishing illegally in the reserve. 

Since these decisions affected the natural rights to conservation of biodiversity in the Galapagos Islands and its Marine Reserve, explicitly enshrined in the Ecuadorian Constitution, the Galapagos National Park Service decided to file a complaint with the National Judiciary Council, requesting that this body take action.

The Galapagos National Park Service was very pleased to learn of the decision of the National Judiciary Council - and so is CNH Tours.   Though only a first step, CNH Tours hopes that the judiciary in Galapagos will begin to take environmental infractions more seriously.  It's only by sending a clear, firm message to those considering contravening the law will they think twice before doing so.

The Galapagos Marine Reserve is one of the few remaining places in the oceans where one can see large schools of hammerhead sharks, and where sharks in general fully occupy their ecological niche.   The global appetite for shark fin soup (mostly by the Asian communities, largely Chinese) has led to a huge reduction in shark numbers worldwide, often illegally, as unscrupulous fishermen do what they can to harvest this illegal catch.    Fortunately, there are signs of an increasing awareness in the shark fin consumer community that things should change - though the road ahead is still long!