Judge sentences Chinese ship crew for environmental crimes

Tuesday, 29 Aug, 2017

The courts in Ecuador have sentenced the 20 Asian crew members from the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, to prison and fined over $5 million after their capture while sailing through the Galapagos Marine Reserve with 6620 dead sharks including protected species in its hold. Translated from the original August 27th Spanish article in Jueza sentencia por delito ambiental a tripulación de barco chino. Header image from Sea Shepherd Galapagos archives.

The crew from the Chinese ship captured in Galápagos were sentenced to prison and to pay a fine according to Lorena Tapia on Twitter. Photograph credits: EFE

The announcement was made by Lorena Tapia, President of the Government Council in Galapagos, through her twitter account: “Judge sentences Chinese ship crew for environmental crimes: prison and fine” she wrote at 8pm on 27th August 2017.

Also on Twitter, Environmental Minister Tarsicio Granizo wrote: “Zero tolerance to environmental crimes! From 1 to 4 years of prison and more than 5 million dollars to Chinese ship crew. #JusticiaEnGalápagos".

The civil servant also indicated that the Justice Department finds that the ship “should go to the Galapagos National Park Service” and said that the fine is of $5.9 million dollars as compensation to the park.

Walter Bustos, director of the Galapagos National Park, said to EL COMERCIO that with this sentence “a judicial precedent has been established for Ecuador, for Galapagos and for the whole world”.

He indicated that, as part of the fine, the Chinese vessel Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 would be decomissioned. This, and the incarceration and fine, are “a chance for the life of migratory marine species”.

In a communiqué published tonight, the Minister for the Environment assured that the legal decomissioning of the vessel would be done by Inmobiliar and it would be “for the benefit of the Galapagos people: in case of being sold, the value of the sale would be given to Galapagos National Park”.

Bustos explained that “what is happening is that there is a fleet in the Pacific” that has been in places such as Baja California and Argentina. “Now it is up to us, with the difference that here we act with the full embodiment of the law and with full transparency of this case. For this, we have today´s sentence”.

He also pointed out that the judge´s decision affirms that “the soverignity of Ecuador... is about the defence of our natural resources”.

The sentences, according to the Environmental Ministry, “were made with the evidence found inside the Chinese ship, that includes the possesion and transport of protected species (sharks) inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve, a crime featured in Article 247 of the Integral Organic Penal Code.”

This Sunday 27th August 2017 was the third court session against the 20 Asian crewmembers from the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, captured while sailing through the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The judge, Alexandra Arroyo, was presiding the process. Earlier on, the Director of the Galapagos National Park informed that the cargo ship had in its hold 6620 sharks. The Park and the Environmental Ministry acted as private accusation. The audience today also revealed that close to 300 tons of fish found in the hold of the Asian ship were received from two Taiwanese ships: the Hai Fang 301 and the Hai Fang 302. According to the crew members, the transfer was made between the 5th and the 7th of August, over a thousand kilometers northeast of Galapagos. The ship was captured by Ecuador´s Armada on the 13th August, close to San Cristobal Island.

“The captain´s statement established that the ship entered without authorization the Galapagos Marine Reserve, with its destination Peru, and was to later return to China” said the Galapagos National Park in a statement. The Prosecutor´s and the National Park's accusation was based on the transport and possession of protected species, a crime cited in article 247 of the Integral Organic Penal Code (COIP). Also, the cargo ship didn´t have permission to sail through this protected area. Hammerhead, Silky, Thresher and Mako sharks are the species found in the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999´s refrigerators. They were piled and some were missing their fins, as the inspection revealed.

The Galapagos National Park´s director has already taken various measures concerning this case, such as the process of destroying the first 8 tons of fish, between the 21st and the 22nd of August. He also managed the handing over of the ship to the Navy, fully functional and with the refrigerators on to avoid pollution for the decomposing fish.

Translation by Richard Barreno, Coordinador Sea Shepherd España

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