Historic Verdict in Ecuador – Federal Prosecutor seizes Chinese Reefer Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 worth US$ 6.1 million

Image Source: Galapagos National Park; Ecuador Ministry of Environment

The National Court of Ecuador has accepted “Appeal of Cassation” against Chinese Reefer “Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999” for transporting cargo caught through illegal fishing in Galapagos waters.

The Court of Cassation of the Ecuador National Court of Justice, unanimously, accepted the appeal filed by the Prosecutor’s Office and ordered the confiscation of the Chinese Reefer ship “Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999”, and to give the proceeds of the vessel worth USD 6,137,753.42 in favor of the Galapagos National Park.

Regarding the legal situation, on 21 May 2019 three national judges of the National Court endorsed the penalty against 20 citizens of Chinese nationality, 3-year jail term for four persons and one year jail term for the sixteen other crew for the IUU fishing crimes committed on 14 August 2017 in Galapagos waters of the Ecuador EEZ. The Attorney General’s Office and the Galapagos National Park successfully challenged the previous ruling issued by the Special Chamber of the Provincial Court of Guayas, which ordered the ship be returned, as the owner was not prosecuted or sentenced for this crime.

The representative of the Office of Prosecutor, Dr. Paulina Garcés, in her press statement said that there was a mistaken interpretation of the law in the previous verdict (by the Special Chamber of the Provincial Court of Guayas) and requested that the confiscation of the vessel be ordered, since more than 300 tons of marine species were found in its holds; noting that the vessel served as a means to commit the crime that caused immense loss to the Galapagos marine environment.

Supplementary information:

  1. The Chinese flagged reefer ship “Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999” was stopped 63.9 km east of San Cristobal Island, in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, where 300 tons of protected sharks and shark fins cargo of threatened and vulnerable fish (hammerhead and silky sharks) were found on board.
  2. A good account of the vessel’s arrest and case history is given in Alava et al., (2019). A brief paragraph taken from the article narrates the arrest incident “On 13 August, 2017, a Chinese factory-mother ship (Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999) navigating within the GMR (i.e. at about 0°38’37”S-89°03’09”W) was caught carrying ≈ 300 tons of fish; and subsequently, the vessel and the illegal fish catch were confiscated by Ecuador’s Armada and the Galápagos National Park”.
  3. Article 247 of the Comprehensive Criminal Code, COIP, punishes with a custodial sentence of one to three years the person who hunts, fishes, captures, transports, or engages in commercial trade of specimens or their parts, products and derivatives, of flora and terrestrial, marine or aquatic wildlife, of threatened, endangered and migratory species, nationally listed by the National Environmental Authority, as well as international instruments or treaties ratified by the State (e.g. CITES).
  4. Analysis of vessel tracks by Global Fishing Watch (GFW) showed that the reefer did not engage in fishing itself, but probably conducted illegal transhipments with tuna longliners (many approved longline vessels on IATTC list) so the catch came through encounters with 300+ Chinese longline fleet that fished on sharks and tuna along the EEZ boundary of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru or fished on the high seas (GFW 2017).
  5. The latest position of the detained reefer shows it at anchor in Guayaquil port, Ecuador (Marine Traffic 2019).

REFERENCES:

Alava et al., (2019) Alava, J. J., Barragán-Paladines, M. J., Denkinger, J., Muñoz-Abril, L., Jiménez, P., & Paladines, F. (2017). Massive Chinese fleet jeopardizes threatened shark species around the Galápagos marine reserve and waters off Ecuador: Implications for national and international fisheries policy. International Journal of Fisheries Sci Res. 2017; 1(1): 1001.

Global Fishing Watch (2017) Our Data Suggests Transhipment Involved in Refrigerated Cargo Vessel Just Sentenced to $5.9 Million and Jail Time for Carrying Illegal Sharks, Global Fishing Watch, 28 August 2017.

Marine Traffic (2019) Vessel details for_ FU YUAN YU LENG 999 (Cargo – Hazard B) – MMSI 412440493, Call Sign Registered in China _ AIS, Marine Traffic. Accessed on 24 May 2019.

FISCALÍA GENERAL DEL ESTADO (2019) Corte Nacional Aceptó Recurso De Casación Por Delito Contra La Flora Y Fauna Silvestres En Galápagos, Fiscalía General Del Estado, Ecuador Government, 21 May 2019.

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