As of September 30, 2015, a new rule (Ministerial Accord No. 84) came into effect by which all shark species inhabiting the Galapagos Marine Reserve now enjoy full penal protection under Ecuadorian law. Article 4 of this Ministerial Accord complements the new Penal Code of Ecuador, in force since August 2014, which punishes incidents of poaching marine wildlife species with up to three years of imprisonment.
By including all shark species under penal legislation, the 2015 rule set stronger standards of protection of sharks and other marine wildlife in Galapagos. The current global standard falls short by providing penal protection to endangered species only.
The 2015 rule is not only consistent with environmental law principles as outlined in the Ecuadorian Constitution, but it also follows up on the historic efforts to protect sharks in Galapagos, which are reflected in several bylaws adopted by Ecuador since 1959 to ensure full protection of these magnificent species.
In this context, the 2015 rule makes a specific reference to the Fishing ByLaw, which expressly prohibits any fishing or extractive activity of sharks, manta rays, coral, sea horses, ornamental fish, as well as marine mammals, marine birds, marine iguanas and sea turtles. The 2015 rule also makes specific reference to the 1959 Decree of Creation of the Galapagos National Park, which also prohibits the hunting and taking of several marine species.
Due to the scientific and biological standards involved, poaching cases can be difficult to prosecute. By setting a normative standard on all shark species protected under the Penal Code, the new rule sheds light on the complex world of environmental law enforcement in Galapagos.
Sea Shepherd is proud to have contributed to the construction of this rule. By invitation of the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador, we attended several working meetings in Galapagos and Quito, to provide legal input on the protection of sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
The Galapagos office of Sea Shepherd has executed its legal project for the protection of Galapagos since 2010. This project contributes to efforts directed to improving law enforcement in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.