Sea Shepherd Busts Sea Cucumber Poachers in Ecuador

Sea Shepherd Galapagos Director of Operations Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez has been busy. Earlier this month he intercepted poachers attempting to smuggle almost 18,000 shark fins into Peru. He oversaw arrests of the smugglers and the incineration of the fins (to keep them off the black market).

From left to right: Lieutenant Paco Chavez, Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez,
and an environmental police biologist display several bins full of sea cucumbers

On Friday, June 29th, Sean traveled to the town of Libertad, near the coastal city of Guayaquil, where he participated in a raid on a house that was being used to process illegally obtained sea cucumbers for shipment out of the country.

Police officer Lieutenant Paco Chavez of the Federal Environmental Crimes division had placed the house under surveillance based on information supplied by Sea Shepherd. A warrant was obtained to search the house.

The raid resulted in the seizure of 26 sacks of sea cucumbers representing some 40,000 of the animals. The raid also seized a large bag of salt, 2 plastic tanks, 3 propane gas cylinders, 3 industrial ovens, 59 metallic nets, 2 weighing scales, 8 plastic storage containers, 15 undersized lobsters, 3 underwater illegal harpoon guns, and 2 industrial burners.

Two men were arrested: one Ecuadorian and one Chinese. The evidence was transported via police truck from city of Libertad to the police station in Guayaquil for secure storage - approximately 2 hours away. The Ecuadorian man was released after giving a statement to the effect that he was only in the house to collect money related to the sale of legal fish products. The Chinese man was jailed and held for questioning.

Channel 1 News from Ecuador arrived at the crime scene and interviewed O'Hearn-Gimenez about the arrests. Sea Shepherd not only works to stop illegal activities, but also endeavors to publicize what is happening. We will report further after the crime scene report is officially filed.

UPDATE : During the forensic investigation, the official count of the seized sea cucumbers was recorded to be 93,018.

More news from the Galapagos! Read about our seizure of illegal longlines!

This cucumber is of the species Isostichopus fuscus
and is taken from the Galapagos waters during the commercial
sea cucumber fishing season (Photo credit Alex Hearn)