Reina del Cisne industrial fishing vessel inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), the same judge who ordered the detention of its 12 crewmembers for investigation, has now also ordered their release. This unpopular decision comes despite the official inspection, where Sea Shepherd acted as observer, which yielded 82 dead sharks found in the hull of this vessel.Less than a month after the Ecuadorian navy apprehended the
Arguing non-competence to address environmental cases, the judicial decision not only orders the release of the suspects but also lifts a ban the vessel’s transfer, which was originally placed to secure it as judicial evidence. To make matters worse, this decision also annuls a great part of the case.
The case is now forced to re-start in another court located some 982 kilometers away, and of course, with all suspects outside the loop of the judicial system. Fortunately, the Galapagos National Park, the main procedural party of the case, has already appealed the judge’s decision and has also ordered the navy to not let the vessel set sail.
This case made immediate national headlines that illustrate the unacceptable situation of the local judicial response to environmental cases in this nationally protected area and world natural heritage site.
A penal judge arguing non-competence on an environmental penal case, as absurd as this may seem, has also set a disturbing precedent with the potential of leaving Galapagos in judicial limbo: if you want to prosecute environmental crimes occurring in the GMR, then go somewhere else.
Penal judges elsewhere in the country deal with environmental cases involving polluters, illegal loggers, wildlife smugglers, and the sort. Why then would some local judges get nervous about delivering justice in cases involving the big players of the industrial fishing sector? There is no need for real judges to get nervous by enforcing the law.
In the past two months alone, Galapagos judges have released 34 suspects involved in cases where more than 400 sharks were captured. But things have gone way too far this time and a mistake was made, one that could not come at a worse time for them. The judges’ own decisions had exposed this unacceptable reality during a time of overall nationwide judicial transformation.
Sea Shepherd, along with other organizations, is already making sure this case as well as others, are kept in front of the national judicial authorities, including the National Judiciary Council, in an effort to get a complete transformation of the local judicial system.
Galapagos deserves nothing less than real judges who are not afraid to stand up and make difficult decisions against the industrial fishing sector and willing to fully enforce and penalize violators of the law.