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Crew of Chinese Shark Smuggling Operation Sentenced to Prison in Ecuador

Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999

The Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 has been confiscated by the authorities (Photo: Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment)

The crew of a Chinese fishing vessel found to be carrying almost 300 tonnes of illegally caught sharks, has been sentenced to prison in Ecuador.

The 100m-long Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was seized by Ecuadorian authorities east of San Cristóbal island in the Galápagos archipelago on 14 August, with six holds almost full with dead sharks, including endangered species such as the hammerheads. The vessel is thought to be a 'mothership' – storing the catch from smaller boats to allow an extended operation.

According to a statement on the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment's website (in Spanish, click here for an English translation), Judge Dr Alexandra Arroyo decided after a three-day trial that the crew would serve prison time 'for the crime of possession and transport of protected species.'

The ruling states that the captain will be sentenced to four years in prison, the three senior officers to three years, and the remaining 16 members of the crew to one year each. In addition, the court has ordered financial reparation of $5.9 million. The Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 has been impounded and will be auctioned to the benefit of the Galápagos.

More than 6,623 sharks were discovered aboard, mostly hammerheads, threshers and mako, apparently 'delivered' by two Taiwanese-flagged vessels the Hai Fang 301 and Hai Fang 302.

Minister of Environment Tarsicio Granizo said that 'this sentence is in line with the policy of zero tolerance for disrespecting our sovereignty and our most elementary principles as a nation,' adding that 'this ruling marks a precedent in environmental legal matters, at the country level and in the region.'

'Ecuador has acted in compliance with environmental legislation and presents a global warning of what is happening on a daily basis in our oceans, which requires an immediate response from the United Nations on indiscriminate fishing,' said Walter Bustos, director of Galápagos National Park

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