Underwatertimes.com News Service - July 3, 2007 16:42 EST
sea shepard

The Sea Shepard Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat is on patrol in the Galapagos National Park

Aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat at 08:15 am July 1, 2007: While returning from a cultural trip to Isabella Island, crew members spotted a suspicious motorboat from the ship's crow's nest, at a distance of 6-7 nautical miles (nm) south of the Farley Mowat's position. Captain Alex Cornelissen called all hands on deck when a series of buoys were sighted running perpendicular to the bow of the Farley Mowat. The longline carried none of the required bird-scaring devices and was set to target yellow-fin tuna.

A call to Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez, director of operations for Sea Shepherd Galapagos, confirmed the longline found 10 miles south of Isabella Island and some 30 miles inside the protected Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve was undoubtedly illegal and in violation of the rules and regulations of the Galapagos National Park. At 08:30am, the crew began pulling in the line, freeing any and all animals unfortunate enough to fall victim to the poachers, and seizing all of the illegal fishing gear.

Second and third lines were spotted, and subsequently confiscated. A Sea Shepherd zodiac was deployed to gather evidence on the poaching vessel which continued to illegally set monofilament line at a distance of 5 nm from the Sea Shepherd ship. The poachers began throwing equipment overboard, eager to destroy evidence, which was later confiscated. The video evidence of the boat fleeing the scene was handed over to The National Park Service.

In total, 30 nautical miles of illegal longline were confiscated, including 270 baited hooks. Fifteen three-foot long yellow-finned tuna were found dead on the line. Two yellow-finned tuna, one sting ray, and a five-foot manta ray were released during the rescue effort and were last seen swimming off in the distance, given a second chance at life by Sea Shepherd volunteers intent on seeing this UNESCO World Heritage Site protected.

On Friday, June 29th, in the town of Libertad , near the coastal city of Guayaquil, Sea Shepherd Galapagos Director, O’Hearn-Gimenez participated in a raid on a house that was being used to process illegally obtained sea cucumbers for shipment out of the country. The raid resulted in the seizure of 26 sacks of sea cucumbers representing some 40,000 of the animals. Also seized, a large bag of salt, 2 plastic tanks, 3 propane gas cylinders, 3 industrial ovens, 59 metallic nets, 2 weighing scales, 8 plastic storage containers, 15 undersized lobsters, 3 underwater illegal harpoon guns, and 2 industrial burners. Two men were arrested.

Enforcement actions by Sea Shepherd in the Galapagos over the past month have included the seizure of over 19,000 illegally-taken shark fins with the cooperation of the Ecuadorian Environmental Police and an investigation uncovering the destruction of protected mangroves in a wetlands ecosystem.