Ecuador detains Chinese boat with endangered sharks

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A handout photo made available by Ecuador's Ministry of Environment shows protected species found inside a Chinese ship that was intercepted in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, 15 August 2017.Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Ecuadorian officials released this picture showing the fish found on the boat

Authorities in Ecuador have detained the crew of a Chinese fishing boat suspected to have caught endangered sharks in the Galapagos Islands.

The Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was found on Sunday in the archipelago, which is a marine reserve, carrying 300 tonnes of fish.

Most of the catch was sharks, including protected species such as hammerheads.

About 20 crew members face up to three years in prison if found guilty of trafficking protected species.

The Galapagos archipelago is an UNESCO world heritage site because of the rich bio-diversity found in the area.

Ecuador's environment minister Tarsicio Granizo said on Tuesday that a judge on the island of San Cristobal had ordered the crew to be held in custody pending court proceedings.

"Not necessarily all of the catch came from the marine reserve, but the fact that it included young sharks, even baby sharks, indicates that they could have been caught inside the reserve," the minister was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Walter Bustos, the director of the Galapagos National Park, told Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo that the boat was the largest vessel captured inside the marine reserve.

In 2015 Ecuadorian police seized about 200,000 shark fins that were set to be exported to Asia.

Shark fin is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, and is usually served as a soup at banquets. Critics say demand for fins is wiping out endangered species and fuelling illegal trafficking.