DANG! “Ghost Poachers” Still At Large After Mega Shark-Smuggling Bust

When you seize a poaching ship with 300 tons of fish -- more than half of them sharks -- and they're just the CARGO ship, you know you're dealing with big-time felons.

Written by Outdoor Beasts Staff on September 25, 2017

When you seize a poaching ship with 300 tons of fish — more than half of them sharks — and they’re just the CARGO ship, you know you’re dealing with big-time felons.

For some people, nothing is ‘sacred’.

The Galapagos Islands. It’s one of the most internationally-famous nature preserves on the planet.

So — of course — someone will be trying to fish it dry. More than half of their cargo was shark, and most of those were silky sharks — which are threatened, or hammerheads, some species of which are endangered.

They lost their shipload of cargo… but the ringleaders still got away.

Yet the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was not a fishing boat. Its crew, who now face jail time in Ecuador for environmental crimes, were likely not the fishermen. To fish commercial quantities of shark, you need tens of thousands of meters of thick fishing line, big, motorized winches, and piles of hooks, each the size of an adult finger. That sort of gear was not on board.
Rather, the Chinese ship was a carrier vessel, whose job was to collect and deliver to port the illegal catch of other fishing boats. Its capture, likely one of the biggest seizures of illegal sharks in recent years, opens a rare window into the murky world of maritime poaching. And it has triggered an international hunt to piece together the puzzle: Where was it heading? Who was making money off of the smuggling? And, most of all, who were the fishermen and where did they catch the sharks? —QuartzMedia

The scalloped hammerheads have been fished nearly to extinction, in the rush to provide ‘shark fin soup’.

After the Chinese ship was seized, aerial reconnaissance missions by the Ecuadorian navy found a fleet of more than 100 foreign fishing vessels—many of which were too small to have AIS systems—in international waters just to the south of the reserve. Pelayo Salinas, a marine ecologist from the reserve’s Charles Darwin Research Station, wrote to us that, “based on the trajectory of the boat” and locations of those fishing boats, he thinks the sharks were likely fished near the Galapagos. —QuartzMedia

The ship has been at sea since April and based on its trajectory, there are two possibilities for where it loaded its haul.

One likely possibility would be Galapagos itself. The other would be breeding grounds off the coasts of Asia. It will take DNA to determine which species they are.

As for the likelihood of it being fished in Galapagos…

Bolstering that theory, the shark species on board are abundant in the waters around the islands, and there were young and baby sharks in the haul, said Ecuador’s environment minister. That shows the catch could have even been from within the Galapagos reserve itself, since it is an important hammerhead breeding ground. —QuartzMedia

So most likely, the smaller, untraceable fishing boats brought their hauls to the bigger packing ship. They transferred them illegally (they do not possess permit required by international treaty for transferring such cargo at sea).

Not surprisingly, there have been denials of ownership by those registered as owning the ship.

These are the sort of low-lifes who give legitimate commercial fisherman a bad name.


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