Full Case Name:  Accion Penal 20331-2017- 00179 - The case of the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, the reefer vessel seized in the Galápagos island

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Country of Origin:  Ecuador Court Name:  UNIDAD JUDICIAL MULTICOMPETENTE CON SEDE EN EL CANTÓN SAN CRISTOBAL Primary Citation:  Accion Penal 20331-2017- 00179 Date of Decision:  Monday, August 14, 2017 Judge Name:  Alexandra Ivonne Arroyo Leon Docket Num:  20331-2017-00179
Summary: In this case, the environmental authorities of the Galápagos National Park (the Galápagos Islands is an archipelago known for its unique species and marine ecosystems) tracked through the satellite monitoring system the Chinese reefer vessel—Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999—in national waters while it was cruising through the Galápagos marine reserve without the required permit. The park issued an alert to the National Guard, which approached the vessel by water and air. Upon searching the vessel, the authorities found approximately 532 tons of fish that included 7.639 sharks (7207 juveniles or adults, 432 unborn). All shark specimens found on board lacked fins, and nine of the 12 species were protected endangered species. In this case, the National Court of Justice set an exemplary precedent by affirming the lower court decision and ordering the confiscation of the vessel and imposing a 5.9 million dollar fine to be used for the restoration of the damage caused to the Galápagos ecosystem. In addition, the crew members were sentenced to 1–3 years in jail.
Documents:  PDF icon Ecuador-sharks-galapagos-cassation-chamber-decision-2019-Spanish-4.pdf (170.92 KB) PDF icon Ecuador-sharks-galapagos-acta-de-casacion-2019-spanish-3.pdf (146.76 KB) PDF icon Ecuador-galapagos-sharks-appelate-decision-2018-Spanish-2.pdf (288.06 KB) PDF icon Ecuador-galapagos-sharks-lower-court-2017-Spanish-1.pdf (287.83 KB)

The court found that the —Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999— had entered a protected area without the required permits, remaining in the restricted area for approximately 21 hours. The court convicted the captain and three other crew members to 3 years of prison, and the remaining 16 members to one year for possessing and transporting protected species within the Galápagos Marine Reserve. This is a crime against wildlife under Article 247 of the criminal code. Crimes against flora and fauna apply only to species protected by national law and international treaties ratified by Ecuador. The article states:

The person who hunts, fishes, captures, collects, extracts, posses, transports, traffics, benefits from, exchanges, or commercializes specimens or their parts, the products and derivatives of terrestrial, marine, or aquatic wild flora or fauna, of threatened, endangered and migratory species, listed at the national level by the National Environmental Authority as well as international instruments or treaties ratified by the State, will be sanctioned with a custodial sentence of one to three years.

In addition, the court ordered the impounding of the vessel and payment of a monetary fine of 6.1 million US dollars as reparation in favor of the Galápagos National Park for the environmental damage caused to the marine ecosystem. This verdict was appealed, and the Specialized Chamber of the Guayas Provincial Court ordered that the vessel be returned to its actual owners, as it did not belong to any of the persons found guilty. Subsequently, the case went to the Court of Cassation of the National Court of Justice, which unanimously accepted the appeal filed by the Prosecutor's Office and reversed the decision of the Guayas Provincial Court, ordering the confiscation of the vessel, the payment of the monetary sanction of 5.9 million US dollars, and imprisonment for the principals and accomplices of the crime. The reversal was based on article 69.2 of the criminal code, that establishes that “criminal confiscation proceeds in all cases of intentional crimes and applies to property when it is an instrument, product, or revenue in the commission of the crime.”

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