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Galapagos Tour Operator Banned for Two Months Following Illegal Shark Fishing
by David Cogswell
February 7, 2006 19:20 EST

GALAPAGOS, Ecuador -- The regulatory authority of the Galapagos National Park suspended Celebrity Xpeditions from operating tours in the Galapagos Islands for two months as a consequence of an illegal shark-fishing incident.

The authority also ordered Celebrity to pay a fine equivalent to the minimum salaries of 500 crew members. No date was noted for the onset of the two-month suspension. Xpeditions operates in the Galapagos year-round.

Lynn Martenstein, vice president of corporate communications for Celebrity parent Royal Caribbean Cruises, said Celebrity has asked the park authority for a clarification of the charges. After it has received the clarification, Celebrity plans to appeal.

“The Galapagos district attorney cleared the company of any wrongdoing,” said Martenstein. “Since we got the ruling, the Galapagos National Park renewed our operating license. The suspension is not final; it is a recommendation. We are entering into the appeal process.”

The incident came to light in September 2005 when photographs surfaced of Xpedition crew members holding up freshly killed sharks.

Martenstein added that the crew members who were implicated were “relieved of duty as soon as we learned of the incident” and turned over to Ecuadorian police.

After a “top-to-bottom review of how it happened,” Martenstein said the company came up with a list of recommendations it is now implementing.

The recommendations include increasing onboard officer watches, employing full-time security staff, installing security cameras, improving crew education and requiring crew members to sign letters of understanding after training.