Galapagos K-9 UnitOn December 15, 2010, the Ecuadorian Environmental Police was conducting a routine luggage inspection at the Galapagos airport in Baltra, Ecuador. Kipper, one of the dogs in the K-9 unit, identified a black bag containing 20 dead seahorses and 37 pieces of fish that, according to the police report, would presumably be shark fins.

The police conducted a bag inspection in the presence of its owner. The police report informs that the owner of the bag presented a Republic of Hong Kong passport as well as a diplomatic visa. After the police inspection was complete, all confiscated species were delivered to authorities of the Galapagos National Park.

Due to diplomatic status, the owner of the bag was not and could not be detained by the police. According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, diplomats have judicial immunity, with certain exemptions. Ecuador ratified the Vienna Convention in 1964. From a legal perspective, immunity was certainly not designed to perpetrate infractions.

Seahorses compose the fish genus Hippocampus, within the family Syngnathidae, in order Syngnathiformes. Seahorses are protected by international law. All Hippocampus species are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Ecuador ratified CITES in 1975.

Galapagos K-9 UnitEcuadorian law also protects seahorses. The Administrative Statute of the Galapagos National Park considers all species protected by international law, as being "fragile and vulnerable" species. For this reason, non-authorized transport and commerce (including intent of exportation) of protected wildlife species is considered to be a penal infraction. Article 437F of Ecuador's Penal Code sanctions such infraction with imprisonment of up to four years.

While this case again shows the importance of the work performed by the Galapagos K-9 unit of the Environmental Police, it also serves as evidence as one of the many ways environmental laws and international treaties that protect marine wildlife are violated.

Galapagos National Park issued a press note on December 23, 2010, disclosing that a formal communication was sent by the park's officials to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Relations requesting for all necessary steps to take place.

It should be a great shame for any nation and its authorities to have representatives who not only bring dishonor to their role by not behaving as diplomats but also clearly disrespect national laws and international treaties. Diplomatic immunity should never again be misused to ignore the environmental laws in protection of wildlife. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in partnership with national authorities, will work towards that end goal in the Galapagos.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society supports the K-9 unit of the Ecuadorian Environmental Police; a pioneering unit of its kind in both Ecuador and the local region. The K-9 unit has already proven to be instrumental in the fight against wildlife crimes in Galapagos within just a few years of its inception. The dogs are trained to detect wildlife including shark fins and sea cucumbers and to prevent their illegal exportation. The K-9 unit operates the three inhabited islands of the Galapagos under the command of specially trained police officers.

Click here for more information on the Galapagos K-9 unit.

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Galapagos K-9 UnitEl 15 de diciembre de 2010 la Policia realizo una inspeccion rutinaria del equipaje en el aeropuerto de Baltra en Galapagos, Ecuador. Kipper, uno de los perros de la unidad canina, identifico una maleta de color negro con 20 caballitos de mar y 37 piezas de pescado que, segun el parte policial, presumiblemente serian aletas de tiburon.

La Policia llevo a cabo una inspeccion de la maleta en presencia de su propietario. El parte policial informa que el propietario de la bolsa presento un pasaporte de Hong Kong asi como visa diplomatica. Despues de la inspeccion de la Policia, todas las especies incautadas fueron entregadas a las autoridades del Parque Nacional Galapagos.

Debido a la condicion de diplomatico, el propietario de la maleta no fue, ni pudo haber sido detenido por la Policia. De acuerdo con la Convencion de Viena sobre Relaciones Diplomaticas de 1961, los diplomaticos gozan de inmunidad judicial, sujeta a algunas excepciones. Ecuador ratifico la Convencion de Viena en 1964. Desde una perspectiva juridica, la inmunidad ciertamente no fue disenada para cometer infracciones.

Los caballitos de mar componen el genero Hippocampus, dentro de la familia Syngnathidae, en el orden Syngnathiformes. Los caballitos de mar estan protegidos por el derecho internacional. Todas las especies de Hippocampus estan listadas en el Apendice II de la Convencion sobre el Comercio Internacional de Especies Amenazadas de Fauna y Flora Silvestres (CITES). Ecuador ratifico la CITES en 1975.

Galapagos K-9 UnitLa legislacion ecuatoriana tambien protege los caballitos de mar. El Estatuto Administrativo del Parque Nacional Galapagos considera todas las especies protegidas por el derecho internacional, como especies "fragiles y vulnerables". Por esta razon, el transporte y el comercio (incluido la tentativa de exportacion) de las especies de fauna silvestre protegida son considerados como infraccion penal. El articulo 437F del Codigo Penal de Ecuador sanciona esta infraccion con pena de prision de hasta cuatro anos.

Al tiempo que este caso demuestra una vez mas la importancia de la labor realizada por la unidad canina en Galapagos; tambien evidencia una de las muchas maneras de infraccion de las leyes ambientales y los tratados internacionales que protegen la fauna marina.

El 23 de diciembre del 2010, el Parque Nacional Galapagos emitio una nota de prensa informando el envio de una comunicacion al Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, solicitando la aplicacion de todas las medidas necesarias en este caso.

Para cualquier nacion y sus autoridades, deberia ser una gran verguenza tener representantes que no solo deshonran su funcion, al no comportarse como diplomaticos; sino que tambien faltan a las leyes nacionales y tratados internacionales. Nunca mas la inmunidad diplomatica debera ser mal utilizada para ignorar las leyes ambientales en la proteccion de la fauna silvestre. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, en colaboracion con las autoridades nacionales, trabajara para que esto no se repita en las Islas Galapagos.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society apoya la unidad canina de la Policia Ambiental del Ecuador, una unidad pionera en su genero en Ecuador y la region. A pocos anos de su creacion, la unidad canina ha demostrado ser un instrumento en la lucha contra los atentados a la vida silvestre en Galapagos. Los perros estan entrenados para detectar vida silvestre, incluyendo aletas de tiburon y pepinos de mar; y, para evitar su exportacion ilegal. La unidad opera en tres islas habitadas de Galapagos, bajo el mando de agentes especialmente capacitados.

Haga clic aqui para obtener mas informacion sobre la unidad canina.

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Galapagos K-9 Unit

Ecuador2010?12?15BaltraGalapagos Kipper2037

1961Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 19611964

Hippocampus Syngnathidae Syngnathiformes Hippocampus Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [CITES] Appendix II1975

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