The Sea Cucumber Fishery is Closed in the Galapagos

On Friday, June 18, Reuters News Agency ran an article entitled Fishermen Can Catch More Galapagos Sea Cucumbers by Brenda Sempertegui.

The article stated that an Ecuadorian judge had ruled the overturning of limits set for fishing sea cucumbers in the Galapagos Islands. The article stated that the ruling threatens conservation efforts in the protected archipelago.

According to Reuters, the ruling followed a request for an injunction by a group of Galapagos fishermen who felt that government limits on the sea cucumber catch denied them their constitutional right to make a living fishing in the Pacific Ocean marine reserve.

These were the same fishermen who led violent protests earlier in June and threatened to disrupt tourism. The fishermen were rioting to protest the limit of 4 million sea cucumbers, a 60-day season and a complete ban for 2005 and 2006.

Reuters quoted Marco Escarabay, an official for the fishermen's union on San Cristobal Island as saying in response to the ruling, "We in the fishing sector believe that justice has been done."

The Reuters article left the impression that the fishing for sea cucumbers has been reopened without restrictions and quotas.

However, this is not the case. The fact is that because of the ruling there is no quota and thus there is no fishery.

According to Sea Shepherd Advisory Board member and Galapagos representative for WildAid, Dr. Godfrey Merlen, "The Resolution 002 of May 7 was revoked. That does not open the fishery, nor does it necessarily mean that there will not be a quota. The judge stated that his decision did not mean that the fishermen could do what they liked. The revocation will be appealed. So there still is no fishery."

In other words, the fishermen shot themselves in the foot. Their protest and legal challenge did succeed in over-turning the set quota and restrictions, but because it did not replace the quota or establish new regulations, there is in effect no sea cucumber fishery.

The fight will continue in the courts, but until a decision is made -- the fishermen will be unable to take sea cucumbers.

There is no fishery of sea cucumbers in the Galapagos at the present time.

There are large amounts of contraband sea cucumbers in the Galapagos and the National Park is watching closely for evidence of smuggling.

The illegal take of sea cucumbers, the illegal finning of sharks and the incursion of illegal longlines and tuna purse seining are the most serious enforcement issues in the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve.