ISLA DE SAN CRISTOBAL, Ecuador – The crew of a Chinese fishing boat went on trial on Friday for catching endangered sharks in the protected waters of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
If convicted, the 20 defendants could face up to three years in prison as well as monetary penalties ranging in the millions of dollars.
Around 50 people gathered Friday outside the courthouse on San Cristobal, an island with barely 7,000 inhabitants.
One of those taking part in the protest, Yadira Ballesteros, told EFE she was there to demand justice for the Galapagos.
“We are invaded by foreign ships. The Chinese fishing fleet is wiping out our reserve. More than 15,000 sharks were seized from that vessel,” Ballesteros said.
As many as 300 Chinese fishing boats operate in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands, a hub of biodiversity and UN-designated UN World Heritage Site.
Even when the fishing boats remain outside the reserve, the sheer volume of the activity has an impact on the protected area, as the marine species “don’t recognize borders,” the regional governor, Lorena Tapia, said on Friday.